Phillies to give Chase Utley limited playing time this spring

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In an effort to keep him healthy after last season’s knee problems the Phillies are planning to limit Chase Utley’s playing time during spring training.

Charlie Manuel told Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inqurier that Utley won’t be in the lineup for the Phillies’ spring opener Saturday and “it might be a little while before I play him.”

Utley and Manuel talked previously about the plan and the second baseman is fine with the limited action, warning: “You guys might not see me on the field on a daily basis, so don’t freak out if that happens.”

Utley missed 59 games last season and also posted career-lows in batting average (.259), on-base percentage (.344), and slugging percentage (.425). Of course, career-lows for Utley are still pretty good, as his .769 OPS was significantly above the NL average for second baseman (.699).

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.