Still waiting to hear whether Nomar Garciaparra wants to continue his playing career, the Phillies have shown an interest in several other righthanded hitters who might be able to fill a reserve role with the club.
A major-league source said yesterday that the Phils have pursued veteran free agent Moises Alou "pretty hard."
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. confirmed interest in the 42-year-old Alou but did not sound as if a deal was imminent.
"It's a possibility," Amaro said. "He's in the mix. But ultimately his expectations might be a little too high as far as playing time goes. This is a limited playing role."
Alou, who is expected to play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic in March, is a lifetime .303 hitter. He has 332 homers and 1,287 RBIs in 17 seasons.
Alou played in just 15 games for the New York Mets last season after being slowed by a hernia and a torn hamstring. Sources with knowledge of Alou's thinking say his preference may be to sign with an American League club, where he could get some time as a designated hitter.
Alou is one of several righthanded bats that the Phils are considering for a part-time role. Garciaparra, 35, is the team's first choice, but the two-time American League batting champion is still debating whether to play or retire after experiencing injuries over the last two seasons.
"We can't be held hostage by Nomar, though he'd be a guy we'd like to bring in," Amaro said.
In addition to Alou, the Phils are considering free agents Mark Grudzielanek and Rich Aurilia for the reserve role. Team officials also have spoken with the representatives for free agent Kevin Millar.
"A righthanded bat would help," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We definitely could use one."
Werth's deal official. Outfielder Jayson Werth passed a physical exam and officially signed his two-year, $10 million contract extension yesterday.
Werth could have been a free agent after the 2009 season, but "the way I looked at it, I wanted to stay here with these [teammates] and win two more championships," he said. "I really like the guys here and I really like the organization. I signed here [before the 2007 season] because I wanted to win. I could have signed with Oakland or Washington or San Diego and played more, but I came here to win and I'm staying to win."
Werth had no problem postponing free agency for a year.
"Maybe I can build a better portfolio in two years instead of one," he said.
The outfielder's career has been hampered by injury. Except for a short stint on the disabled list with a strained muscle in his right side, he stayed relatively healthy in 2008 and hit .273 with 24 homers and 67 RBIs in 134 games. Even at 29, Werth is considered an improving player with significant upside, and that was reflected in the Phils' decision to pay him $7 million in the second year of the contract.
"It's a bit of a leap of faith to give $7 million to a player who has never had 500 plate appearances, but we believe in Jayson," Amaro said. "We feel comfortable with his ability as a player and an athlete that he'll be able to perform up to that contract."
Werth had been one of 10 Phillies eligible for salary arbitration. Nine have come to terms, leaving just Ryan Howard. He is seeking $18 million, the team is offering $14 million. If an agreement is not reached, Howard and the team will head to the arbitrator's table next month in Phoenix.
Ruiz out of Classic? Amaro believes that catcher Carlos Ruiz, a native of Panama, will skip the World Baseball Classic and remain with the Phils throughout spring training.