CLEARWATER, Fla. - Chase Utley took two days off after hitting a pair of home runs Sunday. He returned Wednesday and hit two more.
Utley eased his way into Phillies camp after spraining his right ankle in January. Once he was deemed healthy, the second baseman and the team monitored his activity. He has played consecutive games in the field just once this spring.
Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said he plans to rest Utley more this season than last. Utley started 148 games last season, tied for the team's highest mark. It was his most starts since 2009. He played in 155 games, more than any major-league player 35 years or older. Resting Utley has proved difficult.
"Part of that is my doing," Utley said after a 9-2 Grapefruit League win over Atlanta. "Because I want to be out there on a daily basis. But I do understand that it will be beneficial."
Utley, 36, hit his second homer in the third inning Wednesday. It was Utley's fourth straight at-bat with a home run. He has 13 hits in 29 spring at-bats (.448). Utley has the fewest at-bats this spring among players expected to make the team's opening-day roster. But his four home runs and nine RBIs are both team highs.
He said it is important in the spring to monitor his time and he feels "pretty good moving forward." Sandberg said Utley will be able to stay strong with days off.
"I think as you get older, you learn more about your body," Utley said. "Having some days off here and there can be beneficial. It's obviously more easier said than done."
Cole Hamels made his longest start Wednesday in his sixth and final spring outing, going six innings. Hamels allowed one earned run on six hits, striking out three batters, walking one, and giving up a home run.
Hamels will start Monday on opening day against Boston at Citizens Bank Park. The Red Sox have long been considered a potential suitor in trade talks swirling around him.
"This is where I'm at and this is what I'm doing," Hamels said. "To be able to pitch at Citizens Bank is the vision I had. For what it is and what people want to make of it, it doesn't affect me. I'm just happy enough that I get to go pitch."
Sandberg does not plan to rest Utley much in the season's first month, as April's cooler temperatures should provide some relief. The Phillies are off just twice in the first month for the first time since 2008, meaning the team will have an extra off day or two in the summer months.
"Cooler temperature goes a long way with him," Sandberg said. "And I think heat, on the other side of the coin, really takes its toll on him. That's something that me and him will stay in communication with."
BY THE NUMBERS
Homers in 4 straight at-bats over two games by Chase Utley
Utley's batting average this spring
Spring at-bats for Utley, the lowest total among Phillies regulars. EndText