The problem is obvious: Late in every season, Chase Utley becomes tired, and his performance suffers. So what can the Phillies do to address the issue in the future?
Manager Charlie Manuel said that rather than try to change anything about Utley's intense approach, he would like an upgrade in the utility infield position, a player who can fill in for Utley and shortstop Jimmy Rollins when those two need a rest.
Two members of this winter's free-agent class would fit that need: Mark DeRosa of the St. Louis Cardinals and Marco Scutaro of the Toronto Blue Jays.
"I would like to have somebody who can . . . give Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley a spell, and it would probably be real hard to find, because I expect him to be close to - we don't want to lose nothing by playing a guy, if that makes sense," Manuel said. "I want something similar to who they are and someone that can probably contribute something similar to that. Though that would be hard to find, because that's a tough job."
This season, Eric Bruntlett batted .171, mostly backing up Utley and Rollins. Utley, whose full-throttle style of preparation and play leave him prone to burnout, once against performed poorly in September.
"I think a lot of it is mental," Manuel said of Utley. "It's a 162-game schedule, the grind that you have. . . . I think mental . . . plays a big part, especially when you prepare and put forth everything you put into it like Utley does."
Manuel has shown a reluctance to include reserves in the lineup, making it difficult for players like Bruntlett and Matt Stairs to remain sharp. The manager would presumably trust and rely on veterans like Scutaro and DeRosa, who could also spell Raul Ibanez in left field, more than he did his bench this season.
Chan Ho Park, an important reliever for the Phils whose hamstring injury rendered him inactive for the division series, threw a bullpen session yesterday. According to general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., the session went well, and Park traveled to Clearwater, Fla. for rehabilitation. If the Phils advance to the National League Championship Series, Park hopes to rejoin the club.
Yesterday's announced crowd of 46,528 was the largest in Citizens Bank Park history, breaking the record set Wednesday. . . . Night owl alert: Sunday's Game 4 in Denver will start at 10:07 p.m.