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.

The Angels to lower the right field wall

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The Los Angeles Angels announced today that they will lower the right field wall at Angel Stadium from 18 feet to eight feet.

The stated reason: to make room for a new out-of-town scoreboard and “philosophical changes.” Obviously, though, helping out lefty power hitters is on the agenda too. As it was, Angel Stadium was in the bottom ten of all parks in allowing homers for lefties.

One of their own lefties is Kole Calhoun, who is a pull hitter. Another one could be Shohei Ohtani, who is a lefty hitter. Although, as a righty pitcher, that could harm him against opposing lefty batters. I’m assuming, though, that the Angels ran a bunch of numbers to establish that this move helps them more than it hurts them, or else they wouldn’t be doing it.