NOTE: News broke yesterday, but no one from the site was available to post it until this morning.
Phillies 2B Chase Utley. (Matt Slocum/AP)
After a month — since August 29 to be exact — of fielding ground balls at the hot corner and the discussion that followed, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley will not play third base in the final six games of the season for the Phillies.
The Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro and manager Charlie Manuel simply told Utley before Friday’s 2-1 loss to Miami that they were going to not pursue the idea of Utley at third base. They both felt that the six remaining games was not enough of a sample size to evaluate Utley at that position.
“I don’t know if it’s a matter whether or not he can do it,” Amaro said. “I think it’s more a matter of practicality and what’s really best for the team overall. While having that option would be helpful, I don’t know if it’s really an option that’s going to make us necessarily better.”
Amaro also added, “”In retrospect, it would be difficult to make a real assessment in six games, to watch this guy play and say, ‘OK, we know Chase Utley is going to be an average defender and better for our team.’ That’s a very difficult thing to be able to assess. None of us are good enough scouts to be able to do that.”
Interestingly enough, two brilliant baseball guys in Phillies third base coach Sam Perlozzo and IronPigs manager/Phillies bench coach Ryne Sandberg both thought Utley could make the switch.
But if the Phillies want to reopen the possibility of Utley playing third, it will require the veteran infielder to play a lot during Spring Training. Utley hasn’t played in a Grapefruit League game in two years.
Utley said his knees feel strong after playing 78 games this season. Utley has shown it on the field, hustling on ground balls, going first to third, and even scoring from first base.
Utley’s power, though slightly down, has been there as well. Of his 74 hits, 15 are doubles, two are triples and 11 are home runs, giving him a .445 slugging percentage. In a full season, if healthy, Utley could still hit about 25 home runs and 35 doubles.
With the Phillies looking to decline Placido Polanco’s $5.5 million option along with Ty Wigginton’s $4.5 million option, that leaves the Phillies with Kevin Frandsen and Freddy Galvis as the in-house candidates to get some time at third base.
The free agent market his very slim, with Padres third baseman Chase Headley being the only viable target. Headley will garner interest from all over the league and someone will have to overpay to sign him.
Galvis, 22, could see some third base time while playing winter ball in Venezuela this off season. Galvis is an incredibly athletic infielder and could give the hot corner a try.