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06/17/09 8:25 PM ET

Manuel wants A-list starter before deadline

Skipper prioritizes top-of-the-rotation help over bullpen arm

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies manager Charlie Manuel knows what present he would most prefer from the front office.

A starting pitcher.

And not just any starting pitcher at that.

"I want a horse," Manuel said. "I'm not talking about a guy you're just going to fill out a rotation with.

"I don't want the same type of pitchers that we have. I want somebody ... that we're going to put out there and he's definitely going to help us. We're not going to stay the same. That might be hard to find."

Any major acquisition will have to come before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. The names Brad Penny, Jason Marquis, Erik Bedard and Roy Oswalt, among others, have been floated. But, of course, there's still the matter of getting other teams -- especially those deciding whether they will be able to content -- to agree.

"You can't say, 'Pretty please, trade this player to us,'" general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said late last month, after Brett Myers suffered a right hip injury that will likely end his season. "It's just not how it works. It takes two or three -- nowadays, four -- teams to tango."

Manuel made it clear that acquiring a topflight starter takes priority over a bullpen arm, a need that has manifest itself more recently. As Philadelphia's starters have struggled -- throwing the second fewest innings (348 2/3, or 5.6 per outing) and allowing the most earned runs (206, or 3.3 per outing) in the National League entering Wednesday -- the onus has shifted to its relievers.

Toss in four extra-inning games in seven days, a rain-induced one-inning outing from Antonio Bastardo on Saturday, and injuries to lefty Scott Eyre (strained left calf) and closer Brad Lidge (sprained right knee), and you get an overextended, undermanned bullpen.

Indeed, the 'pen allowed eight walks and six earned runs in Tuesday's extra-inning loss to the Blue Jays, and Manuel thought that fatigue may have contributed to the suspect control.

So while an A-list starter is still his top choice, Manuel doesn't see why his wish list has to end there.

"If we can't get a starter, then I think that we should upgrade our bullpen and get it better," he said. "If we can get a starter and a bullpen piece, if that makes us better, then I think we should do that."

David Gurian-Peck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.