Utley focusing on baseball after suspension lifted

March 7th, 2016

PHOENIX -- Dodgers infielder Chase Utley said he's known his two-game suspension for an illegal slide would be dropped for a few weeks after talking at length with MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre.

"At the end of the day, Joe believes the slide was not an illegal slide, therefore there should not be a suspension," Utley said on Monday. "At the time, he felt like he needed to make a quick decision. In the playoffs there's a lot of tension and it was something he felt he needed to do."

Utley was suspended for his aggressive NL Division Series Game 2 takeout slide of Mets shortstop Ruben Tejeda, who suffered a broken left leg when he turned his back to the runner and was upended by Utley trying to break up a double play. The suspension was issued by Torre the day after on-field umpires ruled the play legal.

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Utley immediately appealed the suspension, but did not appear in either of the two games in New York -- where the Dodgers had a beefed up security detail at their hotel and Citi Field. A hearing was never held.

Utley said Torre told him by phone that after looking at other slides over the years, "there was not much different and there were no penalties given, so they rescinded the suspension."

"I can't say enough how terrible I felt with what happened to Ruben, I had no intent to hurt him whatsoever and anybody who thinks I did is completely wrong," Utley said. "This is good for everyone, to put it behind us and focus on baseball."

Last month, Major League Baseball and the Players Association agreed that "slides on potential double plays will require runners to make a bona fide attempt to reach and remain on the base. Runners may still initiate contact with the fielder as a consequence of an otherwise permissible slide. A runner will be specifically prohibited from changing his pathway to the base or utilizing a 'roll block' for the purpose of initiating contact with the fielder."

Potential violations are reviewable by instant replay, as are "neighborhood play" calls, which previously were not reviewable.

"I've played this game for a while as a middle infielder, I've come across a ton of slides over my career that were similar and I understand it's part of the game," Utley said. "Now we have a new rule in place I believe will keep guys healthy, like the slide rule at home plate. Guys stay healthy and that's the main goal. I was playing hard like the rest of my teammates and like I've been playing for a long time."

A free agent during the offseason, Utley re-signed with the Dodgers for one year and $7 million to play second base and third base. His anticipated playing time, however, is expected to diminish after the unexpected re-signing of second baseman Howie Kendrick.