It’s only extended spring training, but it’s good news. Chase Utley went 3-for-4 in his spring training debut with a homer and a double yesterday against the Yankees.
The competition is not of the major league variety, but it’s encouraging. Utley drove the ball and he ran the bases. He didn’t play defense.
The rehabbing All-Star, who has missed a healthy portion of the beginning of the season for two consecutive years, started as DH. The biggest issue for Utley is playing the field, particularly second base, which is tough on the knees.
Should the Phillies consider moving Utley to another position, left field perhaps, to lower stress on his bad knees?
Charlie Manuel admitted that the Phillies have considered that option when he returns. But before Utley is possibly transferred to a new post, he will have to approve the move.
“I think we should ask him before we do that,” the Phillies skipper said.
That’s not surprising since Manuel has immense respect for one of his team’s leaders. Perhaps Utley can move to first base until Ryan Howard comes back. Former Phillie closer Brad Lidge believes the Phillies need Utley.
“They miss him in that lineup,” said Lidge, who now plays for the Nationals. “They’re a much different team with Chase Utley. They’re definitely a more difficult team. He provides so much with his bat and his leadership.”
But it’s a matter of where they’ll place his glove and if his knees can take the day to day pounding in the field. It’s going to get very interesting.
“Getting him healthy and seeing what he can still do is the big thing,” said Manuel.