During his prime with the Phillies — before all those nasty knee injuries — Chase Utley was one of the best defensive second basemen. He didn’t have the best range or the strongest arm, but the Phillies positioned him well and he had good instincts. While age has further deteriorated Utley’s range and arm, the instincts are still as good as they have ever been and he illustrated that during Thursday night’s game against the Rockies.
With a runner on first base and two outs in the top of the fourth inning, opposing pitcher Tyler Chatwood hit a weak ground ball to Utley that skipped up his glove and bounced off of his chest. Utley had to turn his back to pick up the ball and, in doing so, flipped the ball behind his back to Adrian Gonzalez to get the out. The play was so impressive that broadcaster Vin Scully exclaimed, “Wow!” Scully has seen a thing or two, so getting him to exclaim is saying something.
Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.
Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.
Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.