By Jack Ryan
Chase Utley in Dodger Blue?
Doesn’t seem quite right.
But as Phillies fans mourn the trade of their all-time fave, the 36-year old was in Houston suiting up for the Dodgers as they race to to the finish of the NL West race.
According to the Orange County Register, Utley considered playing out the string with the Phillies. The team, and the town, he said, treated him quite well for a dozen years. He won a World Series with an organization that paid him more than $100 million. Philadelphians loved him.
“There’s been a bit of a transition there, and I think we thought it was best for us to part ways,” the 36-year-old Utley said Friday. “Obviously I had a wonderful time in Philly, a lot of memories that I’ll take with me forever.
“Now, we’re moving to the next chapter, as far as this organization, this team.”
During an eight-minute meeting with the media he cut short to attend his new team’s hitters’ meeting — which didn’t help much since the Dodgers were no-hit last night — Utley said several times he was looking forward to being reunited with shortstop Jimmy Rollins, his longtime double-play partner with the Phillies.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly did not pair the two in the field for Utley’s debut. He started rookie Kiké Hernandez at second base and Utley as the designated hitter.
On most nights until Howie Kendrick returns from a hamstring injury sometime in September, Utley will be the Dodgers’ second baseman, freeing the team to use Hernandez in center field to rest slumping Joc Pederson.
The front office views Utley as a top-of-the-order bat and a backup candidate at third base despite the fact he has not played the position at any level since 2002, when he was a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Baron.
“We’re just hoping to catch lightning in a bottle here in the last few weeks,” Mattingly said.
Utley did not promise lightning, or much of anything. He said he has felt much better physically since returning from the disabled list two weeks ago after sitting out six weeks with ankle inflammation. He said playing through it before “was not an ideal situation.”
The 36-year-old has long been known to reveal little. He said, repeatedly, he was just “here to win”. In several instances, including when he was asked if he would have accepted a trade to the Angels or Giants, he said it is “hard to speculate.”
Said Mattingly: “He’s not a rah-rah guy.”
Utley, who was born in Pasadena and grew up in Long Beach, seemed to enjoy discussing a few topics. First, the UCLA alumnus polled reporters on their USC or UCLA connections, then he happily recalled attending Game 2 of the 1988 World Series when Orel Hershiser threw a shutout and had three hits.
Utley, who grew up a Dodgers fan, believes the current lineup is full of dangerous hitters, despite their lack of hits Friday night.
And he believes he is still a dangerous hitter.
“I still feel like I have some gas left in the tank,” Utley said. “I try to keep myself in pretty good condition. I’ve played a lot of innings out there, but I definitely feel like I have some more to go.”
Does more include next season?
“Absolutely,” he said.