Chase Utley eyeing mid-June return

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Phillies second baseman Chase Utley strained his right oblique muscle taking cuts during batting practice prior to the team’s May 21 game against the Marlins. Initial estimates had the veteran missing between two weeks and a month. Today marks two and a half weeks. CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports that the 34-year-old is feeling good and is hoping to return some time in mid-June.

“I’m definitely feeling better,” Utley said Friday evening. “Hopefully I’ll take some swings in the next three or four days and at that point I’ll known where I’m at. I actually feel like I could have swung today, but I want to play it safe.”

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Utley began taking ground balls a week ago and has responded well. Once he gets a reading on his condition after starting to swing again, he will have an idea of when he might be ready to go on a minor-league rehab assignment. He might only need a game or two in the minors once he’s healthy.

Utley had been his team’s most productive player prior to the injury, hitting .272 with an .814 OPS in 177 plate appearances. Domonic Brown hadn’t quite caught on fire at the time Utley went on the disabled list.

Dusty Baker expects Stephen Strasburg to make his next scheduled start

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Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg lasted only two innings in Sunday’s start against the Diamondbacks. The right-hander reportedly had trouble getting loose and it showed: he yielded a hit and three walks to the 10 batters he faced. According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Strasburg had “some nerve impingement that has been alleviated.”

Manager Dusty Baker expects Strasburg to make his next scheduled start on Saturday at home against the Rockies, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports. Strasburg was examined by doctors, who deemed him to be in good shape — enough to not warrant undergoing an MRI.

Through 20 starts, Strasburg owns a 3.25 ERA with a 141/37 K/BB ratio across 121 2/3 innings. Though the injury scare isn’t what the Nationals hoped for, he’s done well in the first year of his seven-year, $175 million contract extension.

John Lackey hit four White Sox batters today

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Cubs starter John Lackey didn’t have his best stuff on Tuesday afternoon at Wrigley Field against the White Sox. The right-hander hit four White Sox batters over the course of five innings. He yielded just two runs, though, on five hits and two walks with five strikeouts. He left with a 4-2 lead.

Lackey hit Jose Abreu with one out in the first inning, then hit Abreu again in the fifth. He then hit Matt Davidson and Yoan Moncada shortly thereafter. Chris Beck relieved Carlos Rodon for the White Sox in the bottom of the fifth and promptly hit Ian Happ with a fastball to lead off the frame. Home plate umpire Lance Barksdale issued warnings to both benches and the beanings stopped.

So, how often do pitchers hit four batters in a game? Not that often! The last to do it was the Reds’ Josh Smith on July 4, 2015 against the Brewers. Before that, it was the Nationals’ Livan Hernandez on July 20, 2005 against the Rockies. Lackey is only the ninth pitcher to hit four batters in a game since 2000 and the 26th since 1913. The only other Cubs pitcher to do it besides Lackey was Moe Drabowsky in 1957.