Placido Polanco is recovered enough from offseason hernia surgery to make his spring training debut yesterday, but Chase Utley remained out of the Phillies’ lineup with no immediate plans for his return to game action.
Manager Charlie Manuel told Todd Zolecki of MLB.com that “it’s going to be a while yet” before Utley debuts and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. indicated that the Phillies might hold him out for the first two weeks in an effort to keep his chronic knee problems in check.
Asked if Utley is healthy, Amaro replied:
He seems fine. We’re just taking things slowly with him. There’s no reason to start putting the pounding on his knees that typically he would have during this time. There’s no reason to start that process now when we can start it a little bit later on.
That makes sense, but the extreme caution and focus on limiting Utley’s mileage sure makes it seem like the Phillies believe his knees are in pretty bad shape overall.
The ALCS had a weird play in Game 4 on Tuesday night, but Game 4 of the NLCS did as well. This one involved Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, Jr. and his attempt to spark a rally in the bottom of the ninth inning against Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling.
After Alex Avila singled, Almora ripped a double to left field, past a diving Enrique Hernandez. The ball rolled to the ivy in front of the wall. Most outfielders there would’ve put their hands up, which would have alerted the umpires to call an immediate ground-rule double. Hernandez didn’t, instead fishing the ball out and firing it back into the infield. Avila had stopped at third base, but Almora kept running. Much to his surprise, he pulled up into third base to see his teammate standing there, resigned to his fate as a dead duck. Third baseman Justin Turner applied the tag on Almora for what he thought was the first out of the inning.
Almora, however, was then sent back to second base after the umpires correctly called a ground-rule double.
Unfortunately for the Cubs, the lucky break didn’t help as closer Kenley Jansen came in and took care of business, retiring all three batters he faced without letting an inherited runner score. The Dodgers won 6-1 and now lead the NLCS three games to none. They’ll try to punch their ticket to the World Series on Wednesday.