During a luncheon yesterday, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. several times excused himself to take calls on his cell phone.

"It's Scott Boras calling again," he'd say with a grin.

He probably was kidding. But you never know, considering a report in the Boston Globe that the Phillies offered a contract to free-agent righthander Derek Lowe, a client of the California-based superagent.

When lefthander Jamie Moyer filed for free agency last month, every indication was that the Phils would quickly reach an agreement with him. That hasn't happened. And while Amaro wouldn't confirm the reported offer, he did say that there have been discussions with Lowe's representatives and that the Phillies are examining several starting-pitching options.

Boras did not return a phone call seeking comment yesterday.

Asked about the 46-year-old Moyer, who was 16-7 with a 3.71 ERA last season, Amaro was noncommittal.

"As in almost every negotiation, it's been a little long and it's been a little difficult to get things done with Jamie," he said. "But, again, our goal remains the same, to add pitching, and we're hopeful Jamie can be with us."

The new general manager was equally evasive when asked whether signing Lowe, or another free agent, would preclude bringing Moyer back as well.

"It could," he acknowledged. "But, again, the way a deal is done depends on the structure of the deal, such that we can add more. And that's one of the challenges we have, that there's not just one area we have to address. And, again, we'd like to add more bullpen help if we could. It was a strength of ours last year, and if we can add to that strength, that would be great."

Lowe, 35, was 14-11, 3.24 in 2008. He is a sinkerball pitcher who could be expected to do well in cozy Citizens Bank Park.

At the same time, there has been printed speculation that he could command a 4-year deal at around $15 million per year. And the Phillies have had a fairly rigid policy against guaranteeing more than 3 years to a pitcher.

"I would be reluctant to sign pitchers for more than 3 years, but under certain circumstances it has to be considered," Amaro said. *