Ryan Howard, Chase Utley Back At It In Clearwater
The rest of the Phillies might be swinging and throwing and diving (and missing, on all counts) away during and up-and-running 2012 campaign. But, yeah, for Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, this is still basically OTAs. Games are punch lines. Plate appearances are a tick above recreational. (It's basically baseball, without the general confines of baseball that make it baseball. You know, rules?) Players can hit as many (or few) times as they want, whenever they want, subbing in and out and all over the place as they please. Yeah. Basically OTAs.
And what, for every Super Bowl-dreaming NFLer, is top priority for OTAs? Staying healthy. That's all. Don't tweak your hammy. Don't break your knee. Don't let someone else's knee break your face.
Same goes for these guys.
Wednesday, the first time they played together since that fateful freaking October night we'd all love to forget like Jason Bourne (and, apparently, Matt Damon in the same-named three-film franchise), was test No. 1. They passed. With flying colors. Utley went 2-for-5. Howard 2-for-4. Best of all? They combined for four walks. (Yeah, even better than Utley's second home run in his last 32 seconds.)
Pandemonium (prematurely?) ensued.
Why's that too early? Oh, no reason.
You're up, Phillies director of player personnel Joe Jordan (via Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer): "It's hard to gauge it sometimes, because when they're facing some young pitchers on the mound, and sometimes the quality of strikes isn't very good. So these guys are trying to see pitches, they're trying to get themselves in that major-league strike zone."
Which, needless to say, they're not doing around this anonymous company. Who, yeah, are significantly more no-nameish, given that any and all no names worth having would be in the minor leagues. That's right. We're italicizing/glorifying Triple-A ballplayers relative to the hurlers Howard and Utley are mashing. So long as we're clear. There's only one brand of news that can possibly break (maybe a bad choice of words...) here. That's
bad catastrophic injury news.
Some (maybe?) tangible takeaways: Yes, we have timetables. Not any specifics. Just that they do exist. Which you can extrapolate from Gelb's summary of an exchange he had with Jordan.
Writes Gelb: "Jordan acknowledged that the players are not on similar timetables, in fact saying he's not sure they're on timetables at all."
A very literal read of which gleans some slippage on Jordan's part, followed by a correction. Don't know. Wasn't there. Not my interview. Not my reporting. Can't tell you for sure. (Though I'll guess -- just a guess -- that the Phillies actually have schedules, on paper, for how they expect these players to progress. And that that plot is what Jordan gleaned here. At least that's what I'm going to believe. And pray. Because only God can help Howard and Utley if Scott Sheridan's going all "New York Mets" and just winging it.)
Either way: Whatever that minutiae's worth.
Speaking of: Jim Salisbury of CSN couldn't hear from players themselves -- they didn't do interviews, which is a serious bummer -- but, he says, there was plenty of meaning in what he could see.
Writes Salisbury: "Neither player was available to reporters, but their body language spoke positively. Both players moved well. They smiled easily around the dugout. After blooping a single over shortstop in the third inning, Howard returned to the dugout and said, 'I’ll take it.'"
And, after Howard and Utley made it through Wednesday cleanly, so should you.