Chase Utley’s daily pregame experiment at third base continued on Monday at Citi Field. He spent quite a while taking ground balls, one after the other, working on the longer throw and the attendant mechanics. General manager Ruben Amaro stood nearby, just beyond the visitors’ dugout, and watched the proceedings.
Not long after Utley disappeared down the tunnel and into the clubhouse, Charlie Manuel emerged and answered the usual questions about Utley and the possibility that he might shift from second base to third base in the not-so-distant future. Manuel said the Phillies are still approaching each evening as though they have a shot to make the playoffs -- even though the club played poorly in Houston and entered Monday’s game four back in the wild-card race. If the Phils falter in New York, however, and they continue to drop instead of rise in the push for the postseason, Manuel said that might change the names and positions he pencils into the lineup.
If that happens, would Manuel and the Phillies consider a brief Utley-at-third audition before the season concludes?
“We could,” Manuel said. “It depends on where we are. The next week will tell us where we are, probably … We’re going to run out of season pretty soon.”
While there have been questions about whether Utley has the requisite arm strength to play third base, Manuel said he isn’t concerned about it. The manager also said that the new position might be easier on Utley’s knees because it would require less movement since it’s a “react position” that’s “more or less a step and a dive.”
“We have some holes,” Manuel said. “More than likely, if Utley plays third base, that’s definitely going to help us. That will give us a chance to key in on our outfield situation [in the offseason].”
If Utley moves to third base next season, that could position Freddy Galvis to become the team’s regular second baseman. When Manuel was asked whether having Utley at third and Galvis at second would make the Phillies a better defensive team, the manager didn’t equivocate.
“I think if Utley can handle that and do that, yeah, I do,” Manuel said. “I don’t think. I know."