Utley: Kendrick makes Dodgers 'better team'

January 30th, 2016

LOS ANGELES -- Is the Dodgers' depth chart big enough for both Howie Kendrick and Chase Utley?

Utley on Saturday said that when he re-signed with the club for one year and $7 million, there was no talk of the team bringing back Kendrick. But now the club has a pending two-year agreement with Kendrick to presumably retain the starting job at second base, a position that seemed destined to become Utley's.

Downplaying any conflict at the Dodgers' annual FanFest on Saturday, Utley said that when he signed, he expected to play second base, third base and first base. Even with Kendrick's return, Utley said that hasn't changed.

"I have a lot of respect for Howie, the way he goes about his business, having watched him from afar and played with him last year," said Utley. "I think he'll make us a better team. I'll still have an opportunity to play. That's all I ask for, an opportunity to compete and help the team win."

New manager Dave Roberts said Kendrick also is willing to play some third base.

"He's excited to be back on board," Roberts said after talking to Kendrick. "Howie is open to playing some third, open to some second. The guys are open to moving around. The big thing is that they buy in to whatever is best for the ballclub."

When Utley was re-signed, Kendrick had rejected the Dodgers' $15.8 million qualifying offer, expecting to parlay a .295 batting average into a lucrative multi-year deal from another team, a deal that never materialized. Instead, Kendrick has reportedly settled for $20 million total over two years from the Dodgers.

The more the Dodgers realized the severity of third baseman Justin Turner's left knee microfracture surgery, the more appealing it became to re-sign Kendrick, even though management's preference was to pick up a Draft pick for losing him.

With Kendrick the primary second baseman, Utley's role as Turner's backup at third becomes more critical as the Dodgers realize they must cautiously nurse Turner, at least early in the season. Utley proved to be a quick study at third base after the Dodgers acquired him from Philadelphia during last season's stretch run.

"I'm sure I'll get more comfortable taking balls there during Spring Training," Utley said. "When Dave calls my name, I'll be ready to go."

Kendrick is 32 and he missed a month last season with a hamstring injury. Utley is 37 and is coming off an injury-plagued season in which he hit .212.

Utley said he had not yet heard anything official from MLB about his pending appeal of a two-game suspension received for his controversial postseason slide that broke the leg of Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada. Utley said he expects a hearing to be held during Spring Training.