Phillies trying to strike delicate balance at 2B
Sandberg hoping for Utley to hit hot streak, while looking to get Hernandez playing time
PHILADELPHIA -- Over the past 14 games, Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg has started catchers Carlos Ruiz and Cameron Rupp evenly.
It makes sense. Ruiz's .573 OPS is 21st among 23 qualified catchers in baseball. Rupp's is .636.
Could the same thing finally happen at second base with Chase Utley and Cesar Hernandez?
Hernandez started at second base in Friday night's series opener against the Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park. He has started four of the last 13 games at second base, leading the team with a .328 on-base percentage over that span, and has a .631 OPS overall. Utley's .539 OPS is the lowest of 166 qualified hitters in baseball.
The Phillies would like to see Hernandez play more, so they can determine if he is an option at second base going forward. Utley, meanwhile, has a $15 million option for 2016 that automatically vests if he reaches 500 plate appearances. He has 240.
There is no question the Phillies prefer not to pay it, if Utley continues at his current pace.
"I'm just taking that day to day," Sandberg said about second base. "I keep kind of waiting for Chase to hit a streak and really get it going in the other direction. To do that, you need a good series, a good week of at-bats. I'm kind of caught in between there. Cesar can also get in some games, possibly at shortstop, but I'm trying to do my best to get him in there.
"I know Chase is working on some things. To give him the opportunity to get hot would be a plus for him, and to get playing time for Cesar would be a plus for Cesar."