DIAL THE cell phone of Raul Ibanez and listen to the music before the voice mail kicks in.
It's the theme from "Rocky.''
Ibanez, who needs only to pass a physical to formalize the 3-year, $31.5 million contract he's agreed to with the Phillies, didn't return calls yesterday. And he's apparently had the inspirational tune from the ultimate Philadelphia underdog as his greeting for a while now. It's apparently a reference to his strenuous workout routine, not a clue to where he'll be playing in 2009.
Still, it's appropriate for a player who was said to have made the Phillies his top choice after batting .293 with 23 homers and 110 runs batted in for the Seattle Mariners last season.
The official announcement is expected later this week.
If the Phillies had decided to go in a different direction, which was a possibility since Ibanez is yet another lefthanded bat to add to a lineup that already has Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, one scenario had Greb Dobbs platooning in left.
But Dobbs, a former Mariners teammate, couldn't be happier.
"Once I found out that we were interested in him, I thought he'd be perfect for our ballpark and our division," Dobbs said by phone yesterday. "He has great power to all fields, he hits for average and he drives in runs.
"He's a great guy, very professional. This will probably take playing time away from me, at least in the outfield. That's OK.
"I was sorry to see Pat [Burrell] go, as a teammate and a friend. He meant a lot to this team. But, by the same token, there comes a time when you have to turn the page. And by bringing in Raul, I definitely think we've filled that void. He's just a great guy to have in the clubhouse."
This could be a busy week for the Phillies. There's also the possibility that they could sign another free agent - it's been reported that they're close to an agreement with righthander Chan Ho Park - and bringing back lefthander Jamie Moyer remains a possibility.
The Milwaukee Brewers have become the first team outside the Phillies to express an interest in Moyer. General manager Doug Melvin told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that Moyer is on a list of free agents, which also includes Randy Johnson, John Smoltz and Randy Wolf, that the Brew Crew is considering.
After the Phillies got backup catcher Ronny Paulino from the Pirates for Jason Jaramillo at the winter meetings last week, the person most impacted seemed to be Chris Coste. After all, that has been Coste's job the last few years.
Immediately after the deal went down, the fan favorite asked for some time to collect his thoughts. Now that he's formulated his thoughts, he passed them along in an e-mail.
"There seems to be a lot of speculation taking place regarding the Paulino/Jaramillo trade, and many people are perceiving this to mean that I am on my way out the door," it read. "I think this is a little overblown.
"Let me just say this - if I was GM of the Phillies I would have made the move in a heartbeat. In fact, even if [Carlos] Ruiz was an All-Star and I had hit .350 in 2008, I still would have made the move. You can never have too much catching, especially when it is such a volatile and injury-prone position. And they got Ronny Paulino, a former major league starting catcher for Jason Jaramillo, a guy they had apparently given up on. This trade was a no-brainer.''
The deadline to offer 2009 contracts to players was midnight last Friday. Players who are nontendered become free agents. Teams also try to reach agreement with players who may be on the bubble, those they may want to keep but not risk arbitration with.
That appears to be the case with infielder Eric Bruntlett and righthander Clay Condrey, both of whom agreed to 1-year contracts shortly before the deadline.
Bruntlett, who scored the winning run in Games 4 and 5 of the World Series, will earn $800,000. He can make an additional $150,000 if he starts as many as 150 games and another $60,000 if he reaches 350 plate appearances, plus award bonuses. He made a base salary of $600,000 last season plus $50,000 in performance incentives while batting .217.
Condrey, who went 3-4 with a 3.26 earned run average in a career-high 56 games, got a raise from $420,000 to $650,000 plus award bonuses. At Citizens Bank Park last year, his ERA was 2.08.
Righthander Scott Mathieson, 24, was nontendered and then re-signed to a minor league contract. He's had two reconstructive elbow surgeries since his last big-league appearance in September 2006.
That leaves righthanders Joe Blanton, Chad Durbin and Ryan Madson; lefthander Cole Hamels; infielders Greg Dobbs and Ryan Howard; and outfielders Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth eligible for arbitration. *