J.C. Romero became the Phillies' first order of business after the abrupt end to their 2010 season when the team announced Tuesday that it would not exercise its $4.5 million option on the lefthanded reliever for next season. He will receive a $250,000 buyout from the Phillies.

Romero, 1-0 with three saves and a 3.68 ERA in 60 appearances this season, had an inkling after the Phillies' Game 6 loss to San Francisco on Saturday night that his time in Philadelphia had run out.

"My time here, I had a blast," he said. "I hope it's not over. I don't know what's going to happen. That's the part of this game that I hate the most - the business side. I had a great ride over here for four years. I hope it doesn't end."

Romero, 34, played an integral role in the Phillies' bullpen during the 2007 and 2008 seasons, going a combined 5-6 with a 2.17 ERA in 132 games. He was limited to 21 games in 2009 because of a 50-game suspension for violating baseball's substance-abuse policy and an elbow injury that required off-season surgery.

After opening the 2010 season on the disabled list, Romero struggled with his command most of the year, walking 29 batters in 362/3 innings.

Antonio Bastardo and Mike Zagurski are likely to compete for a lefthanded spot out of the bullpen in spring training, with Bastardo holding the upper hand after being part of the Phillies' playoff roster. The Phils are also likely to look for a lefthanded bullpen arm in free agency.

A solid crop of lefthanded relievers that could be on the free-agent market next month includes the New York Mets' Hisanori Takahashi and Pedro Feliciano. The Mets must sign Takahashi by Sunday to keep him from becoming a free agent. Minnesota's Brian Fuentes and the Giants' Jeremy Affeldt are also potential free agents.

Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or bbrookover@phillynews.com.