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.
The Cubs wrapped up a four-game series against the Reds at Wrigley Field on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 13-10 loss to split the set. They’ll match up again against the Reds next week for a three-game series in Cincinnati. That’s good news for Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, because that means he’ll get to see Reds first baseman Joey Votto some more.
As CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports, Bryant has grown quite fond of Votto. Bryant has already won a World Series ring, a Rookie of the Year Award, and an MVP Award, but he still looks up to Votto. According to Bryant, Votto is “the best player ever.” He added, ““He’s my favorite player. I love watching him. I love talking to him, just picking his brain. He gets a lot of (heat) about his walks and working at-bats and some people want him to swing at more pitches. But, gosh, I mean, he does an unbelievable job. You know that he’s going to give you a great at-bat every time he goes up there. It’s definitely a guy that I look up to and I can learn from.”
Bryant said that Votto is “a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”
Bryant also explained how his approach changed by watching Votto. He said that in his rookie season, he was “swinging at everything.” Votto, however, is “aggressive, but he’s not going to swing at a pitch until he wants it.”
Indeed, in Bryant’s rookie season, he struck out in nearly 31 percent of his 650 plate appearances. This season, he has struck out in only 19 percent of his PA. His walk rate has also increased by more than 2.5 percent since his rookie campaign. Compared to last year, Bryant is down in HR and RBI, but his average is the same, his on-base percentage is markedly better, and his slugging percentage is only down by a minute amount.
Diamondbacks second baseman Daniel Descalso hit his team’s third inside-the-park home run of the season during Thursday’s 4-0 win over the Astros. In the top of the fourth inning, with the score 1-0 and the bases empty, Descalso ripped a 1-0, 83 MPH change-up to right-center field. The ball caromed off the wall, heading towards left field, which sent center Jake Marisnick on the chase. Marisnick tried to pick up the ball with his glove, but dropped it, which sealed Descalso’s destiny for an inside-the-parker.
It had only been five days since the Diamondbacks’ last inside-the-park home run. David Peralta hit one against the Cubs on August 12. Ketel Marte legged out his club’s first ITPHR on July 26 against the Braves.
As ESPN Stats & Info notes, the Diamondbacks have three as a team, which is amazing because the other 29 teams have hit seven combined.