Are the Phillies seriously interested in signing free agent Pedro Martinez?

They'll have a better idea today after Charley Kerfeld watches the 37-year-old righthander pitch a simulated game in the Dominican Republic. Kerfeld is a special assistant to general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.

It is a move that supports the Phillies' claim that they are leaving no stone unturned in their search for a starting pitcher. Earlier this season, the Phils said they had no interest in Martinez, a likely future Hall of Famer who went 5-6 with a 5.61 ERA for the New York Mets last season.

But with the market for starting pitching looking thin as the July 31 trade deadline nears, the Phillies obviously have changed their minds.

Amaro was not available for comment last night.

Based on what he saw of Martinez last season, Charlie Manuel figured he still might have enough left to keep a team in a game for five innings, perhaps even six.

But if he had his druthers, the Phillies manager, as well as the club's front office, would prefer a pitcher who can go deep into games.

"I think the five-inning pitcher, you can find those guys," Manuel said before last night's game against Cincinnati at Citizens Bank Park. "Don't get me wrong. I want anybody who can improve our team, either a pitcher or position players or whatever. But when I was talking about a starter, I was talking about a guy for the top of the rotation."

Martinez reportedly was seeking $5 million to sign. But with the season nearing the midway point, his contract would be prorated.

"His fastball is going to be 85 to 90," Manuel said. "He's still got a good change-up, a good curveball, and a good feel for pitching. But I haven't seen him since last year. I've heard nothing at all" about how he is throwing.

Experience counts

Could righthander Rodrigo Lopez give the Phillies what Joe Blanton gave them after he was acquired at midseason last year?

Lopez, 33, gave the Phillies a desperately needed boost Friday with 61/3 solid innings against the Mets after he was called up from Lehigh Valley. The win propelled the Phillies to a weekend sweep of New York after they had gone 4-14 in their previous 18 games.

Manuel saw Lopez when he managed Cleveland and Lopez was a starter for the Orioles. Except for a slight decline in velocity, Manuel said, Lopez does not look much different from the pitcher who twice won 15 games with Baltimore.

"I think Lopez brings experience and he knows what he is and he stays within himself," Manuel said.

"If he missed with a sinker down and in or something, he was smart enough and he's been around long enough [that] he'd throw the next one on the outside part of the plate. I thought his command was good. I think Lopez has composure and experience. I think he's got a knowledge on how he thinks he should pitch. I think he's closer to where he was at when he was really successful. He showed us who he is and what he's all about."

Last season, the Phillies went 9-4 in Blanton's 13 starts.

Stumping for votes

The campaign to get Shane Victorino voted into next Tuesday's All-Star Game began in earnest yesterday when Mayor Nutter accompanied the Phillies centerfielder as they knocked on doors stumping for votes.

"South Philly, down on Oregon Avenue, banging on people's doors," Victorino said.

Victorino was one of five players chosen by Manuel as a candidate to be voted onto the NL roster as the 33d player. Voting on ends at 4 p.m. Thursday. A person can vote a maximum of 25 times.

Victorino was second to Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval after the first day of voting. The three other candidates are Dodgers centerfielder Matt Kemp, Arizona third baseman Mark Reynolds, and Washington shortstop Cristian Guzman.