Desperate times call for desperate measures. So, with Chase Utley battling one of the worst slumps of his career, Charlie Manuel moved his All-Star second baseman up to third in the order last night against the New York Yankees.
The Phils skipper said he made the move to split up the left-handed hitters against southpaw starter CC Sabathia, who allowed three homers to Utley in the World Series. Manuel has watched Utley on video and doesn’t believe fastballs are the problem.
“Every now and then, he gets out on his front side and he looks like he’s not ready,” Manuel said. “When you see him chase breaking balls, his weight has already shifted to his front side and he becomes just an arm and hand hitter. That’s a sign that he’s not staying back.”
The last time Utley batted second, his average was still better than .300. This year, Utley is batting .260, his lowest average in mid-June since he was at .234 back in 2004, when he was still a part-timer in the Phillies infield.
Utley came into his 161st appearance as a second-place hitter mired in a 14-for-85 slump (.165) with one home run and four RBIs in his last 24 games. Before this current tailspin, Utley batted .315 with nine home runs and 22 RBIs in 35 games.
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro has no doubts the real Utley — the one who took a .295 career average into this year — will return before the All-Star break.
“Everybody is kind of a little bit confused by that, including him probably,” Amaro said. “But I think all of us know what Chase is. He’s a quality run producer and one of the best offensive players in the league. At the end of the day he’ll prove that to be the truth again.”