By Justin Adkins:
The Phillies officially open the Grapefruit League spring training exhibition game season today when they take on the Yankees in Tampa. Cole Hamels gets the start, opposing portly has-been Bartolo Colon.
Chase Utley will not be making the trip.
Utely has been experiencing “routine soreness” according to Phils skipper Charlie Manuel. The same reason was given for Utley missing Thursday’s exhibition game against Florida State. Manuel said Utley was sore from initial workouts and would be given a lighter workload in the early going part of spring training.
This of course has prompted a ton of speculation regarding Utley’s true status. The 32 year-old second baseman is as hard a worker as they come, but he is coming off a major thumb ligament injury from last season and has battled other ailments as well, including hip surgery after the World Bleeping Championship in 2008. His production has also been declining over the past few seasons.
Here is Utley’s recent OPS performace: .976 (2007, .915 (2008), .905 (2009), .832 (2010). That last number comes from a 2010 season in which Utley played only 115 games due to the thumb injury.
Manuel doesn’t sound overly concerned though.
“If he doesn’t play Saturday he’ll play sometime next week,” Manuel said. “Chase is fine. When he’s ready to go out there I’ll put him out there. He’s definitely not injured. He’s fine.”
It sounds as if Manuel wants to limit Utley’s workload early to ensure The Man makes it through the whole season intact. Not a bad idea, but here’s hoping that’s all it is. It just seems very strange to start resting guys before exhibition games even begin.
For the record, Utley took batting practice Friday and looked fine. He’s also supposed to play in Saturday’s annual team golf outing. So who knows?
Also, shortstop Jimmy Rollins is being held out of the lineup today after missing the past two days to attend an event at the White House. Manuel wants him to stay in Clearwater to work out but expects him to play Sunday.
Phillies-Yankees gets underway today at 1:05pm today. Follow the action in the PSC Game Day Thread.
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