The Phillies have yet to see Chase Utley out on the field in a Spring Training game and it's uncertain when they will again. (Yong Kim/PhillyInquirer)
Domonic Brown broke two things in his first at bat against the Pirates on Saturday. One was his hitless streak; the other was his right hand.
X-Rays showed that the hook of his hamate bone is fractured which means Brown will most likely need surgery. This puts Brown out for four to six weeks and means he will definitely not win the starting job for right fielder.
Brown’s injury wasn’t the only bad news on Saturday. Yesterday morning, Chase Utley talked about the severity of his knee injury and the cortisone shot the second baseman received on Friday.
Although Utley’s injury appears to just be patellar tendinitis, something Utley has even had in the past, there were concerns on the lack of progress Utley has been making and how long Utley will be out with the injury.
“I don’t think at this point I’d be much help to our team or to myself,” Utley told the Inquirer, “But the goal is to get this better. There’s still three weeks left in spring training and probably 190 games left in the season.”
If last season can be any indication on what Utley can be dealing with, the news is not good. A’s outfielder Ryan Sweeney had to get season ending surgery in July and Milton Bradley had to get season ending surgery in August. If you are optimistic, Josh Hamilton played through the injury and won AL MVP.
Outfielder Ben Francisco celebrates with Juan Samuel after his homer against Pittsburgh on Saturday. He looks to be the replacement for Dom Brown. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
With Brown out of the lineup for up to six weeks, and Utley being out indefinitely, the question becomes, who will replace them?
Brown’s replacement shouldn’t be too hard to find. Ben Francisco – he was arguably winning the right fielder starting job even before Brown’s injury – has had a great Spring thus far.
Francisco has 8 hits in 19 at bats so far (don’t hurt yourself kids that’s a .421 batting average) and these aren’t just singles either. Francisco has two doubles, a triple, and two home runs.
Francisco isn’t the only outfielder batting in the .400’s. Delwyn Young, who was with the Pirates last year, has 7 hits in 17 at bats which is good enough for a .412 average. John Mayberry, Jr. is also having a good spring. He is batting a solid .294 with a double, a homerun, and two walks.
Unfortunately if Ibanez keeps hitting the way he his hitting, (which is essentially not hitting at all) the Phillies may need to look for more outfielders. Ibanez only has 3 hits in 17 at bats.
Finding a replacement for Utley shouldn’t be too difficult either.
As mentioned above, Delwyn Young is hitting great right now. Luckily for the Phillies he can play second base too. Last year Young played in the outfield, at second, and at third base. Being able to play third is great for the Phillies too because it gives the Phillies the option to let Placido Polanco play second base. As most of you know, Polanco played second base during his first stint here with the Phillies. Polanco is batting .267 this spring, but Polanco is one of the game’s most consistent hitters. He is a lifetime .303 hitter. If Polanco is asked to play second, there would be little to no drop at all as far as average goes.
As we learned last year with the injury to Jimmy Rollins, Wilson ValDOES can do anything. Literally anything. Not only is Valdez having a great spring with a .417 average, but he can play short stop, second base, outfield, and probably pitch too.
Moral of the story? No need to panic just yet. It looks like this team is deeper then we originally thought, and the Phillies should be ok for a short period of time. If both injuries, especially the Utley injury become a season long injury, we might have a problem.
That problem of course is not with finding someone in the Phillies organization to play second or play outfield, but the problem will be having to listen to Michael Young trade rumors all summer.