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.
Pablo Sandoval could be tabbed to play second base in the near future, per a report from John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. According to Shea, Sandoval has been spotted taking grounders at second during pre-game warm-ups and may be considering switching to the keystone on a part-time basis.
It wouldn’t be the weirdest thing the 31-year-old corner infielder has done this year — that distinction goes to the flawless inning of relief he pitched in a blowout loss against the Dodgers last month. But it would represent a pretty notable departure from his comfort zone even so; Sandoval has primarily manned first and third base throughout his 11-year career in the majors and has also taken a few reps at DH during his resurgence with the Giants in 2018.
Of course, this wouldn’t necessarily be a permanent switch for Sandoval. As Shea points out, the Giants are thin on middle infielders after losing Joe Panik to a torn UCL in his left thumb and backup Alen Hanson to a left hamstring strain. Provided he can get up to speed quickly (no easy feat, according to infield coach Ron Wotus), he’d give the club some added depth behind Kelby Tomlinson and Miguel Gomez until Panik is ready to take the field again. Sandoval has impressed at the plate this spring, batting a healthy .270/.329/.429 with six extra-base hits and a .757 through 70 plate appearances.