The Phillies, who are openly searching for a lefthanded reliever, have acquired Stephen Randolph from the Houston Astros for a player to be named later.

There are reasons to believe that Randolph, 34, could soon join J.C. Romero as the second lefty in the bullpen. He has a 1.23 earned run average for Triple A Round Rock this season and had allowed just 8 hits while striking out 21 in 14 2/3 innings.

There are also reasons to believe he might not be the answer. He has command issues, as evidenced by 11 walks.

Neither general manager Pat Gillick or assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. could immediately be reached for comment this morning.

Randolph, who has just over 2 years of major league service, appeared in 14 games for the Astros last season. He struck out 22 batters in 13 1/3 innings . . . but also walked 22 and allowed 21 hits, accounting for his 12.15 ERA.

In 109 big-league appearances in his career, he has a 5.52 earned run average.