Utley playing with renewed vigor in return
Veteran Phillies second baseman has something to prove
SAN DIEGO -- Chase Utley said he has played with an edge forever, so he does not need any more motivation to play baseball. But one still wonders if this situation is different.
Utley went 2-for-4 with two doubles and two runs scored in Saturday night's 4-2 victory over the Padres at Petco Park. He is 3-for-9 in two games since returning from the disabled list with a sprained right ankle, a good sign for Utley and the Phillies, who could try to trade him before the Aug. 31 waiver Trade Deadline.
"The first half was subpar, to put it lightly," Utley said. "I still love playing the game, so as far as an edge, I always feel like I have a chip on my shoulder."
Utley hit .179 with seven doubles, one triple, four home runs, 25 RBIs and a .532 OPS in 65 games through June 22, making him one of the least productive hitters in baseball and having some question how much longer he can play. But a strong showing this month could have him headed elsewhere. The Angels and Cubs have expressed interest in him.
Of course, Utley has 10-and-5 rights and has indicated in the past he prefers to stay in Philadelphia. But he also left the door ajar in Spring Training when he said he would listen to what the Phillies had to say, especially if the team moved some of its veterans.
The Phillies traded Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, Ben Revere and Jake Diekman last month.
"Like I've said all along, I would be more than happy to listen to them," Utley said. "I do love Philadelphia. I've had a great time playing here, but out of respect for them, I would definitely listen to them."
This is how the game goes. Players come, players go. Even iconic ones. In the meantime, Utley hopes to play much better than he played in the first half of the season.
"I feel better than I have in a while," he said.
Utley is expected to play about four times a week as interim manager Pete Mackanin still wants to play Cesar Hernandez, who has performed very well since Utley went on the DL. That could mean three games for Utley at second base and one at first base.
"We're all on the same page," Utley said.
"I think that's what he's up to -- and good," said Mackanin, asked if Utley might be motivated to prove he can still play at a high level. "Like I've said, everybody auditions every day. The old guys have to keep on auditioning to prove they belong and they can still play. And that's what he's doing. He's making a good showing."