The Phillies want Jamie Moyer back, but as contract negotiations move slowly, they are looking at alternatives.

The Boston Globe reported yesterday that the Phillies had made an offer to free-agent righthander Derek Lowe. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. would not confirm or deny the report, but a source said yesterday that the Phillies had not made Lowe an official offer. It is likely that parameters have been discussed.

"He's not the only free-agent pitcher that we've had discussions with," Amaro said. "There have been plenty of them."

The Phils also have talked with free-agent righthander A.J. Burnett, although the Atlanta Braves reportedly are prepared to offer him a five-year contract.

"It's been a little long, it's been a little difficult to get things done with Jamie," Amaro said. "But again, our goal remains the same: It's to add pitching. We're hopeful that Jamie can be with us. That said, we have explored a variety of different ways to add pitching, especially starting pitching. And Jamie is not the only priority."

Would the Phillies sign Lowe or Burnett to a substantial multiyear contract? Former general manager Pat Gillick preferred not to sign pitchers for more than three years because of durability concerns.

"We would be reluctant to sign a pitcher for more than three years, but under certain circumstances it has to be considered," Amaro said.

Amaro would not say what the holdup is with Moyer, who went 16-7 with a 3.71 ERA last season. Moyer's agent, Jim Bronner, also declined to say why negotiations have taken so long.

"I think Jamie definitely has interest in coming back to Philadelphia," Bronner said. "He also has some interest in some other places. The Phillies certainly made it easier for other clubs to want him by not offering him arbitration."

If the Phillies had offered Moyer salary arbitration before Monday's midnight deadline, other teams would have had to forfeit a top draft pick to sign him, which could have been enough to preclude their signing the 46-year-old lefthander. Now that teams do not have to compensate the Phillies, Moyer would seem to be more attractive.

"We have talked to other teams," Bronner said.

The Phillies said they did not offer Moyer arbitration because it would not provide them the payroll flexibility they need to pursue other free agents, either in the bullpen or left field. Moyer made $7 million last season and could have received a significant raise at the arbitration table.

In left field, where free agent Pat Burrell has been a fixture since 2000, Amaro said the Phillies ideally would like an everyday player who can hit in the middle of the lineup.

"But that doesn't necessarily make us a better club," he said. "It's a combination of what we can do. Again, if it's someone to add to a platoon situation, we'll do that. If it allows us to do something differently in the rotation . . . it's not just about one piece, it's about how all the pieces fit together."

Asked if Burrell would not be back, Amaro said: "I couldn't really put a percentage on it. We haven't really had a whole lot of substantive discussion with him, but that doesn't preclude us from bringing him back. This is a slow-moving process."

The process seems to be going especially slow with Moyer.

Lowe, 35, went 14-11 with a 3.24 ERA in 34 starts for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. Burnett, 31, was 18-10 with a 4.07 ERA in 34 starts for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Medical updates. Amaro said second baseman Chase Utley, who had surgery on his right hip Nov. 24, "has done quite well. We're real pleased with how things have progressed with Chase in the short time that he has started his rehab."

Utley, whose full recovery is expected to take four to six months, is expected to begin baseball activities in three months.

Amaro said third baseman Pedro Feliz, who had surgery on his lower back Nov. 20, "should be fine." Feliz will continue to rehab at his home in San Francisco.

Donald's a top prospect. Phillies infield prospect Jason Donald was named to the Arizona Fall League's top-prospect team. Donald was one of four hitters in the league to bat over .400. He finished second in the league in batting (.407) and doubles (12), and third in slugging percentage (.747).

Extra bases. The Phillies hired former major-league coach Craig Colbert as an advance scout. Colbert, 43, spent the last 11 seasons with the San Diego Padres, the last two as manager Bud Black's bench coach. Colbert replaced Hank King, who had been the team's advance scout since 1985. King is now a pro scout. . . . The Phils hired Tim Gradoville, who played in the team's farm system, as a bullpen catcher.