Get excited, Phillies fans. Chase Utley played in a baseball game this afternoon.
According to John Finger of CSNPhilly.com, Utley went 3-for-4 with a homer and a double while serving as the designated hitter in an extended spring training game.
While it was an encouraging first step, it’s not clear when Utley will be ready to test his left knee by playing the field. With that in mind, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was asked about whether the team has considered playing him at first base in order to put less stress on his knees. He didn’t completely dismiss the possibility.
“He’s played first base. He’s OK at first base,” Manuel said. “He hasn’t played there enough to say he’s a bona fide first baseman and stuff. I mean, there’s still footwork and stuff around the bag that he would need to improve on.
“I think it’s something before we go a long ways about it, we need to sit down and talk to him and see how he feels about it.”
Obviously Utley would have a big say on whether a position change would happen and the big variable in the equation is when Ryan Howard will be ready to return from Achilles’ tendon surgery. But it’s an interesting possibility to monitor.
Everyone is well aware of how good Angels outfielder Mike Trout is at the game of baseball. The 26-year-old is already an all-time great, having won two MVP awards — and arguably deserving of two others — and the 2012 Rookie of the Year Award. He has accrued 54.2 WAR, per Baseball Reference, which is right around the threshold for a Hall of Fame career. Trout does it all: he draws walks, he hits for average, he hits for power, he steals bases, he plays good defense.
But here’s an achievement that is amazing even for a player like Trout: he has yet to strike out this spring. In 41 Cactus League plate appearances, he has 10 hits (including a triple and two homers) and six walks with zero strikeouts. Across his career, Trout has a 21.5 percent strikeout rate, right around the league average. He isn’t usually such a stickler for avoiding the punch-out, but this spring he is.
To put this in perspective, 134 players this spring have struck out at least 10 times, according to MLB.com. 938 players have struck out at least once. The only other players to have taken at least 10 at-bats without striking out this spring are Humberto Arteaga (Royals, 23 AB), Tony Cruz (Reds, 18 AB), Oscar Hernandez (Red Sox, 10 AB), and Jacob Stallings (Pirates, 18 AB).
According to Angels assistant hitting coach Paul Sorrento, the lack of strikeouts hasn’t been a conscious effort from Trout, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. Ho hum. The best player in baseball is apparently getting even better.