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Jim Salisbury | Time is growing short for Gillick in his quest for pitching help.

Last year at the trade deadline, the Phillies added by subtracting. Somehow, they gave up (actually, gave away) one of the most gifted offensive players in franchise history in Bobby Abreu and got better for it.

Last year at the trade deadline, the Phillies added by subtracting. Somehow, they gave up (actually, gave away) one of the most gifted offensive players in franchise history in Bobby Abreu and got better for it.

This year, the Phils can't bank on improving by tinkering with the chemistry and intangible makeup of their club.

They need to go out and get a couple of pitchers. They have six days to do it. Tick. Tick. Tick.

The Phils could make one of the most significant July upgrades in baseball if Brett Myers can make a healthy return to the bullpen this weekend.

That would mean the Phils would still need another pitcher to help improve a staff that carried the worst ERA in the National League into the start of an important six-game homestand last night.

The Phils would take any competent pitcher they could get. But getting a starter appears to be the priority.

"We'd like to get better at the back end," general manager Pat Gillick said, referring to the rotation.

So, of course, would just about every other contending team, including the two in front of the Phillies - the Mets and Atlanta. The need for pitching is so great that the sellers are demanding huge ransoms from the teams looking for help.

This puts the Phillies in a tough situation. They don't have much young, major-league or close to major-league-ready talent to dangle in front of other teams. And what they do have (Shane Victorino, Michael Bourn, Carlos Carrasco) can't just be given away for something that isn't going to be a clear upgrade of what they already have.

Victorino, Bourn and Carrasco are the kind of young, inexpensive talent that teams are asking for. It's highly doubtful the Phils would trade Victorino, because he's so important to this team and could have an even greater impact next year, when he could be in center field. Carrasco, a Reading righthander who could be holding down a job in the rotation within a year, isn't going anywhere. That probably leaves Bourn as the Phils' best trade chip, but they won't part with him without a difference-making return.

"If we give up something from our future, we'd want to get something back that was going to be around for a couple of years, '08 and '09," Gillick said. "It makes no sense to give away our future for two months."

There are pitchers who could be available and would help the Phillies now and in the future. Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo could be had, but he is owed more than $30 million through 2010. The White Sox would move Jon Garland. (And, yes, Gillick says he'd deal with the White Sox, even after the Freddy Garcia debacle.)

Gillick has spoken with every team looking to move pitching. But in a seller's market, "there's a lot of feeling-out going on," he said. "We might do something, but it might not be an earth-shaker."

Gillick did admit to having more serious talks regarding a pitcher with one team.

"One situation, we're further down the road than others," he said. "We know our parameters and they know ours. That club is in a good position because there's not a lot of pitching out there."

Gillick would not name the other team, though he did say the proposed deal could involve someone from the Phils' 25-man roster. Best guess: Bourn.

Pitching isn't the only area the Phils are trying to upgrade. They'd like to add power to the outfield corners, though Gillick didn't sound optimistic about landing any. The Phils, who lead the NL in runs, can survive with the offense they have. They probably can't with this pitching staff.

"We need consistency from our pitching," manager Charlie Manuel said about a dozen times before last night's game.

Manuel had been making open pleas for pitching help, but has calmed down on that front. Maybe J.D. Durbin's shutout in San Diego on Sunday cooled his jets. Or maybe he was asked to cool them.

"In the situation we have, it's important I stay positive instead of negative," Manuel said.


Manuel sent Kyle Kendrick to the mound last night against Washington and the rookie pitched well in his eighth big-league start. The Phillies have won six of those starts. Clearly, the 22-year-old righthander has contributed. Durbin, another rookie, has also helped recently, winning two of three starts after landing with his fourth organization this season.

The contributions of Kendrick and Durbin haven't cured this team's need for pitching, though. Manuel might not be publicly pleading for more help, but that league-worst ERA is.

This team has the offense to stick around. But it needs more pitching. Myers will be a nice addition, but the Phils can't stop there. Six days. Tick. Tick. Tick.