PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. - Trade speculation surrounding Cole Hamels will persist until the Phillies pull the trigger on a deal. That may not come until closer to baseball's July 31 trade deadline.
But according to Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. on Sunday, one club has in the last couple of days "stepped up and has shown more particular interest" in the prized lefthander.
Such a vague comment could be taken a multitude of ways but is certainly notable on a weekend when one potential Hamels suitor lost its ace and a published report pegged the New York Yankees as another.
"We're keeping open-minded on everything," Amaro said. "The transition, the rebuild and all that stuff, that didn't stop on Feb. 25. It's going to continue."
Speculation regarding the Texas Rangers as trade partner increased when Rangers ace Yu Darvish was diagnosed Friday with an elbow sprain in his ulnar collateral ligament that could lead to Tommy John surgery.
The Boston Globe reported Sunday that the Yankees have "come the closest to landing Hamels."
Amaro declined to say whether the unnamed team that "stepped up" its efforts to trade for Hamels made an offer.
The Phillies are hopeful Chase Utley will begin playing games within the next week, Amaro said, but aren't going to rush him. The veteran second baseman's right ankle is still swollen from the sprain he suffered in January while fielding ground balls.
Utley, 36, has been able to participate in most of the exercises in Phillies workouts but is still using caution to avoid further injury.
"It's going to take some time to heal," Amaro said. "There's no reason to rush him. As long as he gets 40, 50 at-bats [this spring] to get his timing down, I think that's the important thing."
The Phillies used a three-run seventh inning to beat Tampa Bay at Charlotte Sports Park. Non-roster invitee Brian Bogusevich came off the bench to provide two of the team's 10 hits.
Righthander Kevin Slowey pitched three perfect innings and lefthander Joely Rodriguez added two scoreless innings of his own. Each team committed three fielding errors.
The Phillies have yet to announce who will start Tuesday against the Detroit Tigers in place of lefthander Cliff Lee. Righthander Aaron Harang is still slated to start Monday's game against the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota. Lefthander Adam Morgan is also expected to pitch Monday.