Utley Almost Ready to Return
Time for Chase Utley to bust out that WD-40. Rust has gotta go. Like, stat.
The Phillies announced Monday night that Utley’s officially on the rehab trail, with a Tuesday minor-league assignment for the single-A Clearwater Threshers at Bright House Field, ground zero for the Pacquiao to this Mayweather (the Tampa Yankees) on a totally can't-miss card. Not Steven Strasburg (wherever it’s most favorable for Steven Strasburg to pitch, because Nationals Park doesn’t qualify). But not the all-but-face-painted clowns of extended spring training either.
Still, Tuesday will prove a marked step up for a guy who, in two soft-served games last week, never once had to play the field, because the extended spring training
rulebook collection of whims (that basically lets you do whatever the hell you want, whenever the hell you want to) doesn't mandate players – even soon-to-be-in-the-NL everyday positional guys like Utley – play the field. (Or bat in any particular order. Or stop doing so after being pulled. Or anything else on the copious list of whited-out edicts that make baseball, you know, baseball.) Utley can DH at this level, and he will starting Tuesday. But unless Ruben Amaro has stormed the MLB league office with Uzis and Ed Wade as a human shield to force a DH into the NL, Utley’s going to have to play the field at some point, right?
Said Ruben Amaro (per Bob Brookover of Philly.com, who might’ve pulled the same stunt to actually get this story and/or a quote from Ruben Amaro, the guy who blackballed him covering The Piece's road back): "Yeah, because he's taking ground balls and feeling a little bit better each day. If he has a setback, he has a setback, but right now he feels good enough to start. He'll start off as a DH and obviously he'll progress to the field at some point."
(Aside: Good to know Amaro takes setbacks -- and Utley's progression -- super serial.)
Some point within 20 days, the cap on minor-league rehab assignments for position players. That gives Utley chronological and competitive wiggle room to float around in the minors, playing the field, tuning up his timing, varying his rest between starts to see how he responds. (Or not.)
Utley went 5-for-9 in two games last week. He also crushed a few doubles and finished a triple short of the cycle in his debut last Monday.
Should be noted, as Ryan Lawrence of the Delco Times does here:
After which point he only missed 13 games. And had a .259 batting average that's, oh, a few thousandths of a point higher than Freddy Galvis' month of May. But whatever. He's CHASE UTLEY!!! Dude eats shards of metal for breakfast, right?!? Totally an upgrade...
Subjectivity aside: The unveiling of whatever's left of Utley is impending. Fast.