Chase Utley walks to the plate a little faster than everyone else. The quiet leader of the Phillies continues to stride to the dish with palpable bad intent.
Utley, who returned to the lineup last night after missing the first 46 games due to patellar tendinitis in his right knee, can still hit the ball hard. After a minute-long standing ovation, Utley (0-for-5) drilled a shot right at Reds center fielder Drew Stubbs.
The Phillies hope the All-Star can jump-start a struggling offense, which pounded out 14 hits for 10 runs against the Reds.
“It won’t hurt having Chase Utley out there,” Charlie Manuel said.
But how much will Utley’s knee hurt?
“We’ll continue to monitor it daily,” Utley said. “If there’s discomfort, maybe I’ll take the day off.”
It’s obvious that Utley is thrilled to be back.
“You know that I enjoy playing,” Utley said. “It was disappointing and frustrating not being able to help.”
Utley, who batted in the two-hole, will have the chance to spark an offense that — prior to yesterday — had scored three runs or less in its last nine games.
But GM Ruben Amaro cautioned fans from expecting Ruthian outpourings every night.
“I’m glad to have Chase back on the field,” Amaro said. “But he’s not going to be a savior.”
Amaro can downplay Utley’s significance all he wants, but the oft-injured member of the MLB All-Decade Team is irreplaceable. And a monumental upgrade over spare parts Wilson Valdez and Pete Orr.
“We know what Chase is capable of,” Manuel said.
As for Utley, he just wants to be a cog in the wheel of a team with great expectations.
“It’s not all about me,” Utley said. “It’s not all about Ryan [Howard]. It’s about all of us together collectively going out there every day trying to win.”
And he’s prepared to take small steps going forward.
“I’m just trying to get my feet wet again,” Utley said. “I’m trying to