Chase Utley finally broke his silence earlier this afternoon and while he didn’t say much, he told Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that he would like to play in a game next week.
The Phillies always planned to bring Utley along slowly this spring due to his chronic right knee condition, but there are some minor signs that things that haven’t gone according to plan. The 33-year-old second baseman takes batting practice pretty regularly, but as David Hale of the News Journal notes, he backed off taking grounders after feeling pain in his knee early in camp.
Phillies’ general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. continues to express optimism about Utley being ready for Opening Day, but we won’t know much about his status until he begins pushing himself in game action. It’s believed that he’ll need somewhere around 40 to 50 at-bats in order to be ready for the start of the season, so he could be eased into action as a designated hitter on the minor league side before picking up the intensity by playing defense in major league games.
Utley began last season on the disabled list due to his knee condition and didn’t make his debut until May 23. He ended up batting .259/.344/.425 with 11 homers, 44 RBI, 14 stolen bases and a .769 OPS over 454 plate appearances in the regular season and .438 (7-for-18) with two doubles, one triple and one RBI during the NLDS against the Cardinals.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.
With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.