Chase Utley sits in the dugout during what appears to be Spring Training. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)
The Clearwater Bureau of the Daily News reports that second basemen Chase Utley will make his first official rehab start for Class A Clearwater.
After going 5-7 with two home runs in an extended spring training game on Thursday, Utley went just 1-7 in another extended spring training game last night.
While the bat wasn’t there, perhaps more importantly Utley made two key defensive plays yesterday. In the first inning, Utley leaped for a high throw while jumping over a sliding runner, and later that inning Utley proved he could do a double play pivot.
To me the two defensive plays yesterday are more impressive than the two home runs Thursday because it shows he is comfortable playing on his knee.
Playing tonight is another important step for Utley because it is the first time he will be playing on back to back nights. Tonight’s game will prove whether or not Utley is ready to play on a regular, everyday schedule. If he passes this test with flying colors, this is very good news for the Phillies.
While the Phils stand in first place in baseball with an impressive 23-11 record, the schedule is getting tougher now, and more Phillies such as Jose Contreras, Carlos Ruiz and Roy Oswalt are also on the DL.
With all of those injuries that have plagued the Phillies this season, the Fightins’ could use some reinforcements, especially at second base. Don’t get me wrong Valdez has done a formidable job in replacing Utley, but his .247 average and five double plays are not helping the Phillies.
The one criticism of this team has been the inability to score runs.
A healthy Chase Utley should help fix that problem, and make this already good Phillies team, great.