FACT: The Phillies appear confident that getting Brett Myers and J.C. Romero back from the disabled list will be enough to arm their bullpen for the stretch run.

Opinion: That's a pretty big leap of faith. Especially since it looks as though a veteran lefthander with closer's experience is about to become available. In this you-can-never-have-too-much-pitching world, it says here they should at least consider Billy Wagner.

The Mets are expected to activate him this weekend, less than a year after he underwent Tommy John elbow surgery, and then showcase him. His contract is up at the end of the year (with a $1 million buyout for 2010).

Reasons the Phillies should at least check out how he's throwing: Wagner was dominant in his rehab starts; there's no guarantee that Romero will be healthy again this year; Wagner would be another option to close if Brad Lidge continues to struggle; teams they could face in the postseason - the Dodgers come to mind - might be interested. So this would be a preemptory move. And, of course, YCNHTMP.

Granted, it could cost around $2.75 million to assume the rest of Wagner's contract and the Phillies have already upped the payroll by adding Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez. But have we mentioned you can never have too much pitching?

Fact: Manager Charlie Manuel continues to express confidence that Lidge, who has seven blown saves in 28 opportunities and a 7.29 earned run average, will get on a roll.

Opinion: Well, hell, what do you expect him to say?

Fact: There has been a fan backlash against veteran lefthander Jamie Moyer for complaining after being sent to the bullpen that the Phillies "misled" him during contract negotiations last winter.

Opinion: A couple things, here. Sure, Moyer should have realized that everything is subject to change based on his performance.

But ... We don't know what was said privately during the offseason. We do know that the Phillies had been saying publicly for weeks that they didn't think he was suited to pitch out of the bullpen. That could have allowed Moyer to conclude that all the speculation that he was coming out of the rotation was bogus. Which would help explain why he appeared so caught off guard when it actually happened.

The hot corner

* Why would the Cardinals be interested in John Smoltz, cut loose by the Red Sox after he went 2-5 with an 8.33 earned run average in eight starts? Because he held righthanded hitters to a .232 batting average in those games, that's why. It's the same reason they're looking at Justin Speier (.239 vs. righthanders) since he was let go by the Angels.

* Former Phillie Vicente Padilla says he can't understand why the Rangers released him. Team sources said it was because they got tired of Padilla being late or absent for team meetings and functions and for his propensity to buzz opposing hitters, getting his teammates thrown at in retaliation.

Around the bases

* Here's some news you can use: According to the Team Marketing Report, the highest price for a small draft beer in a major league stadium is $8.75 at San Francisco's AT&T Park. The lowest? Arizona's Chase Field, where the suds will set you back 4 bucks.

* When Junichi Tazawa, Hideki Okajima and Takashi Saito all pitched in relief for the Red Sox last Friday night, it was the first time in history three Japanese-born teammates had pitched in the same game.

* And a literary note: Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen says his favorite book is "Green Eggs and Ham" by Dr. Seuss.

On deck


For Astros infielder Aaron Boone. Less than 5 months after open-heart surgery, Boone began a rehab assignment at Double A Corpus Christi this week and hopes to be activated after roster limits are expanded Sept. 1.

Boone is 36 years old. Chances are that his best moments are behind him. But you've got to like the determination.

"I guess I felt like [playing again] was possible. It was just pretty low on the list at the time," he admitted to the Houston Chronicle.


To Rays centerfielder B.J. Upton. Dropped to the bottom of the order, he seemed astonished that manager Joe Maddon would even consider such a move.

"It's like back where I started [as a 19-year-old rookie]. I was in the 9-hole, the 8-hole and kind of worked my way up," he complained. "I know I'm not a 9-hitter. I know I'm not a bottom-of-the-order kind of guy."

Upton is batting .235. His on-base percentage is .310. Just a thought, but if he'd like to bat higher in the order, improving those numbers might be a step in the right direction.


0: Runs scored by A's second baseman Mark Ellis Monday despite going 5-for-5 and driving in four runs.

3: Trips to the disabled list for Cubs righthander Carlos Zambrano since signing that 5-year, $91.5 million contract in 2007.

4: Rockies starting pitchers with at least 10 wins for the first time in franchise history.

6.23: Twins' staff ERA since the All-Star break before Francisco Liriano, Matt Guerrier and Joe Nathan limited the Royals to one run Wednesday.

13: Rookie pitchers who started on Tuesday, the most since 14 rookies took a turn on Sept. 19, 2006.


There are still 19 first-round draft choices unsigned with the deadline to get them under contract looming at midnight on Monday.

But no team is under closer scrutiny than the Nationals, who used the first overall pick to take San Diego State righthander Stephen Strasburg, knowing that hard-driving agent Scott Boras was going to demand a record-shattering signing bonus.

Adding to the intrigue is the fact that Washington failed to sign its first-round pick last year (University of Missouri righthander Aaron Crow) and that interim general manager Mike Rizzo is hoping to be named the permanent replacement for Jim Bowden. No matter what happens, this is expected to go down to the wire.



Cubs manager Lou Piniella, still upset more than a week after Billy the Marlin paraded a goat in front of the visitors' dugout at Land Shark Stadium, an obvious reference to the famous Billy Goat Curse: "I thought it was tasteless for the Marlins to do that. Look, you can have some fun, but I thought they went overboard with that ... You get a little tired of it. You would think that wouldn't happen in major league baseball."


In case you doubted how desperate some teams are for pitching ... Adam Eaton, who turned out to be a waste of $24.5 million and was released by both Philadelphia and Baltimore this spring, has been brought up from Triple A Colorado Springs and put in the Rockies' bullpen.

And Freddy Garcia, who cost $10 million and Gavin Floyd for exactly one win in 2007 before disappearing with shoulder problems and was released from the Mets' minor league system earlier this year, could start for the White Sox next Tuesday.



Seattle hitting machine Ichiro has gone 147 straight games without going hitless in back-to-back games. That's the longest streak since Stan "The Man'' Musial of the Cardinals went 174 games in 1943-44.


As part of the Brewers' purge on Wednesday, 57-year-old Bill Castro was fired as the team's pitching coach after 33 years with the organization as a player, scout or coach. He had been the bullpen coach for 18 years before getting what he called his "dream job" this season.

Never mind that injuries to Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan thinned the rotation and that he had less than a full season to prove himself. He's outta there.

"It's disappointing," Castro said. "I didn't get to finish what I started. I kept thinking what I could have done different. I gave it my best shot. That's baseball. I'll survive."


Erik Bedard will undergo exploratory shoulder surgery today that will end his season and, likely, his Mariners career. So let's recap the trade that sent him to the Pacific Northwest 2 years ago.

Baltimore got All-Star outfielder Adam Jones, All-Star closer George Sherrill, rising star pitcher Chris Tillman, major league reliever Kam Mickolio and minor league pitcher Tony Butler.

Seattle got 30 starts and 11 wins from Bedard, four trips to the disabled list and two surgeries.

People always talk about trades that help both teams. This wasn't one of them.