By Sam Bush
Chase Utley’s right ankle has done for Utley and Phillies fans what manager Ryne Sandberg has not had the guts or common sense to accomplish:
Spare the great second baseman the embarrassment of trotting out every day and performing like a minor leaguer!
The Phillies announced after Tuesday night’s 11-6 win over the Yankees that they have placed him on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his right ankle. It is the same ankle that Utley badly sprained in January during offseason workouts, and the same ankle that forced him to miss the beginning of spring training.
“It’s hard to tell,” Utley said, asked how much the ankle has affected him at the plate. “Obviously, it’s been bothering me for a little while. Most players have aches and pains through the year. So I’m not shocked with that. It’s really showing no improvement. So I think it’s a good time to get it right. We will have a cortisone shot tomorrow. We’ll take a little time off, and hopefully that will get it squared away.”
Utley is hitting .179 (39-for-218) with seven doubles, one triple, four home runs, 25 RBIs and a .532 OPS in 65 games. His batting average and OPS are last among 163 qualified hitters in baseball.
The Phillies almost certainly do not mind Utley’s trip to the DL because he has a $15 million club option for 2016 that automatically vests if he reaches 500 plate appearances. He has 249 through the team’s first 73 games. Depending on how much time he misses and how well Cesar Hernandez plays as his replacement, the option could no longer be an issue upon his return.
“Talking to the doctor today, the more time I can lay off it the better chance it has to heal properly,” Utley said. “I don’t have an exact time frame. It will be at least 15 days.”Utley said his knees, which have been an issue in the past, are healthy.
Sandberg said he was surprised by the news, because he said Utley told him he had been fine.
“My communication with Chase throughout this season about playing is that he’s been up and willing to go, and no real reports of anything holding him back,” Sandberg said. “I was a little bit surprised by it in some regards.
“I don’t know if it’s affected him, but to get it taken care of with a stint on the DL is the next step to see if that helps him get that behind him. But the way that he’s moved around and run the bases and run hard and played defense, I don’t think it was holding him back all that much, in my opinion. But to have it bothering now — as he said it has kind of crept up on him to the point of getting it rechecked and re-evaluated — that’s what he feels.”
Sandberg’s comment that he was unaware of any issues with Utley’s ankle is interesting, because the Phillies said Utley had an MRI on May 16, which showed some inflammation and swelling.
“It was present on the bone itself,” Phillies head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan said. “Most of the ligaments on the outside are healing pretty well. The ligament on the inside still had some healing to still go. He has some symptoms that we want to take care of. So we’ll place him on the DL and try to get him healthy.”