Chase Utley cleared to begin rehab assignment

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Out since May 20 with a strained oblique, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley has been cleared to begin a minor-league rehab assignment tonight at Double-A.

Assuming he doesn’t have a setback Utley’s rehab stint is expected to be just a few games, potentially setting him up to come off the disabled list this weekend.

Philadelphia is 14-13 in Utley’s absence, but Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com points out that his replacements at second base have hit a combined .190 with a .461 OPS. Utley hit .272 with an .814 OPS in 44 games before the injury.

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

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Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.

Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.

What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.