DALLAS - If Charlie Manuel is worried about heading into a season without Jimmy Rollins at shortstop, he did a good job of hiding it yesterday.

"I think there is a big chance Jimmy is going to be back with us," the Phillies manager said. "I think it's going to get done . . . Right now, that's our A-plan."

His optimism is not unfounded. While the Phillies were reported to be considering alternate plans on Monday, the vibe in the front office's suite here at the Hilton Anatole was noticeably different yesterday evening.

Much of that stemmed from a meeting that general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. had with Rollins' agent late Monday night. While Rollins has said he is looking for a 5-year deal, and while the Phillies have been hesitant to move beyond 3, there are some indications that the two sides are finally making some progress toward middle ground.

"We had a nice meeting," Amaro said of his late-night chat with Dan Lozano. "Not really much to report. We just had a good discussion about some things. As you guys know, I don't really talk about progress or no progress. It was a good meeting. We'll keep working through it."

The Phillies have had discussions with free-agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez, but it isn't clear how serious they are about signing the veteran and trading Placido Polanco.

Manuel said he talked to Rollins a week ago when both were in Philadelphia for Phillies events.

"We talked about a lot of things," Manuel said.

Amaro said he has no deadline for resolving the situation. He continues to mention 22-year-old prospect Freddy Galvis as a potential replacement, but that seems to be more talk than anything. And, while the Brewers have expressed some interest in Rollins, most baseball people here at the winter meetings think his return to Philadelphia is just a matter of time.

"Jimmy has every right to feel prideful about what he has done in his career and what his impact has been upon our club," Amaro said. "I absolutely understand that he feels he has great worth, and he should feel that way. It's just a matter of us getting to the right place where we think the worth is the same."

Deadline day

The market for Ryan Madson remains uncertain, which means there is some level of intrigue to tonight's midnight deadline for free agents to accept arbitration offers from their former clubs. While it still seems highly likely that Madson will turn down the Phillies' offer, agent Scott Boras has advised clients to accept before. Two years ago, Boras client Rafael Soriano accepted arbitration from the Braves, who eventually traded him to the Rays. The following offseason, Soriano signed a 3-year deal with the Yankees.

Madson has seen potential suitors turn elsewhere over the last week, with the Marlins signing Heath Bell and the Blue Jays trading for Sergio Santos.

Would the Phillies be able to accommodate Madson's salary if he accepted arbitration?

"I would think so," Amaro said. "That remains to be seen. A lot of it depends on what we think the value of the arbitration, what a case like this would bring."

Phillers

Charlie Manuel said he received a text message from Roy Halladay in which the Phillies ace labeled himself ready to get back to work. Manuel did not return the text: "I don't do it. I can't do it," he said . . . Manuel said he thinks Jim Thome will be able to play one or two games at first base every week. He also said that Laynce Nix, John Mayberry Jr. and Ty Wigginton are options to fill in for Ryan Howard. Manuel said he anticipates Howard missing time at the start of the season as he recovers from Achilles' tendon surgery.