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.
The Mets acquired right-handed reliever Jacob Rhame from the Dodgers, the team announced on Sunday. Rhame is the player to be named later in the trade that sent outfielder Curtis Granderson to Los Angeles on Friday night. He’s expected to report to the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate.
Rhame, 24, pitched through his second Triple-A campaign with the Oklahoma City Dodgers in 2017, collecting two saves in 41 appearances and logging a 4.31 ERA, 1.9 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 48 innings. While his ERA saw a sharp spike from its modest 3.29 mark in 2016 (perhaps thanks in part to a midseason DL stint due to an undisclosed injury), he’s controlling the ball better than he has in several years and has drawn some attention with a fastball that occasionally touches 98 MPH on the radar gun.
The Mets’ bullpen hasn’t been at its finest over the last few weeks, ranking 16th among its major league competitors with a collective 4.50 ERA and 2.4 fWAR, but likely isn’t looking to add an extreme fly ball pitcher to its staff just yet. Until he gets his big league break, Rhame will beef up Triple-A Vegas’ relief corps alongside fellow right-handers Yaisel Sierra, Joe Broussard and Josh Ravin.
The Pirates and Cardinals will switch things up for Sunday’s series finale, moving from the spacious PNC Park to the renovated Minor League confines of BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field. Normally the home stadium for the Phillies’ Short-Season Single-A Williamsport Crosscutters, Historic Bowman Field will set the stage for an unusual — and unprecedented — matchup between the NL Central rivals as they take the field for the first-ever MLB Little League Baseball Classic.
The game will cap a packed day for Major League and Little League participants alike, as four Little League double-elimination games will be played in the morning and afternoon before the Pirates’ Ivan Nova and Cardinals’ Mike Leake face off at 7:00 PM ET. Despite drawing national attention, the Classic will be invitation-only, and its projected 2,366 attendees will comprise the lowest capacity attendance figure in Major League history.
The event is designed to spark more interest in the sport, especially among young players, and Cardinals’ manager Mike Matheny called it “grassroots marketing at its finest.” “We all fell in love with the game and started dreaming about playing on a field like this at the age of these kids we’re going to go see in Williamsport,” he told reporters prior to Sunday’s game. “I hope there are some kids that we can encourage and maybe give a different look of the game and create some lifelong baseball fans that might not have been there otherwise.”
Judging by the excitement that infused the pregame festivities among the players, it looks like they’re already on the right track.