Charlie Manuel on Chase Utley’s spring debut: “It’s going to be a while yet”

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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.

2017 Preview: The American League Central

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League Central

Do the Indians have a weakness? Do the Tigers and Royals have one more playoff push in them or do they have to start contemplating rebuilds? The White Sox and Twins are rebuilding, but do either of them have a chance to be remotely competitive?

As we sit here in March, the answers are “not really,” “possibly,” and “not a chance.” There are no games that count this March, however, so they’re just guesses. But educated ones! Here are the links to our guesses and our education for all of the clubs of the AL Central:

Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals
Chicago White Sox
Minnesota Twins

2017 Preview: The National League East

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the National League East

The Washington Nationals crave a playoff run that doesn’t end at the division series. The Mets crave a season in which they don’t have a press conference about an injured pitcher. The Marlins are trying to put the nightmare of the end of the 2016 behind them. The Phillies and Braves are hoping to move on from the “lose tons of games” phase of their rebuilds and move on to the “hey, these kids can play!” phase.

There is a ton of star power in the NL East — Harper, Scherzer, Cespedes, Syndergaard, Stanton, Freeman — some great young talent on ever roster and, in Ichiro and Bartolo, the two oldest players in the game. Maybe the division can’t lay claim to the best team in baseball, but there will certainly be some interesting baseball in the division.

Here’s how each team breaks down:

Washington Nationals
New York Mets
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves