Phillies second baseman Chase Utley made waves in the past few weeks with his new found interest in playing third base.
But before the Phillies plan to experiment with Utley’s interest in third base in a real-game scenario, two things need to occur.
First, Utley needs to go to Charlie Manuel and say that he is 100 percent confident in his abilities to field the ball and make the throw from third base, a big step from playing second base his entire Major League career.
Second, the Phillies will need to fall out of playoff contention.
The Phillies are currently four games out of the Wild Card with 15 games to play. St. Louis is four games ahead while Los Angeles, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh all lie in between.
If the Phillies magic number continues to drop, Utley could be playing a little third base in over a week.
“I think I’ve been out there three or four times,” Utley said, referring to his pregame workouts at third base. “Every time I get a little more comfortable. But I think there’s still a lot of work to be done. So far it’s going well. I feel like I’ve progressed a little bit, but there’s still more room for improvement.”
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro thinks Utley has been “doing fine.”
Lastly, when asked if the Phillies can learn enough about Utley at third base if he plays just a couple games before the season ends, Amaro commented.
“Realistically, I don’t think so. But if he really dedicates himself to doing it, I think the probability of him being able to do it is much higher than it is with other people. I think more than anything else this is finding out if in fact he feels comfortable enough doing it. Having him play third base just gives us another option. And what’s wrong with giving us another option?”
The Phillies have no real option moving forward for next season at third base. They have options for Placido Polanco and Ty Wigginton that total $8.5 million but the Phillies are most likely going to take the combined $1.5 million buyouts on the two players. Kevin Frandsen isn’t a realistic option for third base either.
As also said in Todd Zolecki’s blog post, both Amaro and Charlie Manuel think the Phillies are a good team defensively if they have Utley and Freddy Galvis both in the infield, the former at third and the latter at second.