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Phillies looking ahead toward spring

PHILADELPHIA -- It hit a bone-chilling and record-breaking 4 degrees on Tuesday, so it seems a good time to remind people that Phillies pitchers and catchers have their first workout in Clearwater, Fla., in 37 days.

Hopefully, it will be 70 degrees warmer there.

The Phillies have been quiet on the roster front the past few weeks, although they made big news last week when they signed a 25-year contract with Comcast SportsNet worth a reported $2.5 billion, plus an equity stake in the network and a share of advertising revenue. It is a fascinating story -- anything with the word billions in it typically is -- but fans are interested primarily because they want to know if the deal will allow their team to spend more.

"The finances of the deal don't really change a whole lot for us the first couple of years," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said on Tuesday. "I guess people need to know the finances don't kick in until 2016. So for us it's trying to make choices with the right guys."

But the Phillies have contacted agent Casey Close about his client, Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. It is likely the Phils were simply doing their due diligence on Tanaka, but Amaro has surprised people before.

"Listen, we try to do our business quietly," Amaro said. "We still have had dialogue with some free agents. We have had dialogue with clubs about possible trades. We'll continue to do that through Spring Training. If there are things we need to address, we'll definitely do that.

"We're still looking at certain guys, but I think the message that needs to be thrown out there is we've already gone out there to sign a guy like [right-hander Miguel Alfredo] Gonzalez and committed to him. What we're going to get out of him, we don't know, but he's a guy that we've committed significant dollars to on the international front. … I feel very good about the guys that we have. Are there still question marks? Absolutely, but what team doesn't have question marks? The bulk of the players we have right now are probably the ones we're going to go in with. It doesn't mean we're not continuing to have dialogue with other free agents, both Major and Minor League guys. If something makes some sense to us, short-term and long-term, we'll certainly look into it."

Former Phillies closer Ryan Madson could be a fit on a Minor League deal. The Phils have watched him throw recently, although he is not yet throwing off a mound. Madson has not pitched since Game 5 of the 2011 National League Division Series because of Tommy John surgery and recurring elbow issues.

"We'll continue to monitor him and many other guys that are still out there," Amaro said. "These are guys coming off tough years, injuries or surgeries, and are recovering or something of that nature. Mostly guys we'd probably bring in on Minor League deals, but we've probably talked to between 10 and 20 guys that may be decent fits for us."

The Phillies have spoken with both starting pitchers and relief pitchers about possible invites to big league camp on low-risk deals. They also are looking for bench help, preferably a left-handed-hitting outfielder, and they would like to find a true center fielder to back up Ben Revere.

"It doesn't necessarily have to be a left-handed-hitting center fielder, but we're looking at trying to upgrade from the left side," Amaro said. "That's mostly what our focus is right now."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for

Philadelphia Phillies