ATLANTA - Chase Utley, whose .103 batting average ranked 180th of 180 qualifying big-league hitters entering play yesterday, was out of the Phillies' starting lineup and there's a "pretty good possibility" he won't play again until the team returns home Friday.

"That's the way I'm leaning right now," manager Ryne Sandberg said.

Sandberg saw the benefits of a break with one of his other hitters in the previous 24 hours. Jeff Francoeur, mired in an 0-for-19 funk, sat out in three games in Miami and returned on Monday night with a four-hit game.

"Sometimes you take a mental break, get away from the mental grind of things," Sandberg said. "With as much mental work and effort and everything Chase puts into a daily routine of his, and not having any luck along with it . . . You really feel for the guy because of everything he does put into it, to see the results with the bat on the ball. To not get credited for hits, that's when it starts [to wear] on the mental side of things."

Sandberg met with Utley early yesterday afternoon. He said the veteran second baseman was on board with the plan and remains upbeat despite being mired in the worst four-week period of his career.

Through the first month of the season, Utley was last in the big leagues in hitting and second to last with a .389 OPS and .182 OBP; only Tampa Bay's Rene Rivera (.353, .160) was lower among the 180 qualifying hitters.

But Utley's struggles date as far back as last May. He has hit .215 with 10 home runs, three triples, 14 doubles and a .610 OPS in 133 games dating to May 29, 2014. Is there reason for more concern?

"It's hard to gauge that when you see him hitting the ball to the gaps like he has, the ones that have gotten caught," Sandberg said, referring to at least a half-dozen hard-hit balls that have resulted in outs in the first eight games of the current road trip.

Utley entered yesterday hitting .082 on balls batted into play (BABIP). The major league average for BABIP this season is .293. On the other end of the spectrum is Miami's Dee Gordon, who entered yesterday hitting .440 this season, but also with a .494 BABIP.

While Utley has been a little unlucky, it's surely not the only reason he came into yesterday one more 0-for-4 away from hitting .099. Utley, who is hitless in his last 15 at-bats and is in an 4-for-62 funk in the last three weeks, hasn't gotten a hit in 16 of his 23 starts this season.

Since 1914, only four players in major league history have had more hitless games (with a minimum of three at-bats) in their team's first 27 games: Greg Vaughn (2002) and Tommy Thevenow (1931), both 17 hitless games; and Graig Nettles (1971) and Kevin Elster (1990), 16 hitless games. Utley has had 15 such games.

Perhaps there is hope, though: Last season Cleveland's Carlos Santana also went hitless in 15 of his team's first 27 games, with a minimum of three-at bats in each game, and then hit 24 home runs with a .834 OPS in his final 125 games.

Utley hit .114 in April, which was the sixth-lowest batting average for any player who had at least 75 plate appearances in the last 100 years in the season's first month. Again, perhaps there is a glimmer of hope: Don Baylor had the worst first month of a season in the last 100 years, hitting .062 in April 1981, and then hit .276 with 16 home runs the next five months.

But it is worth mentioning that Baylor was 32 years old in 1981 and Santana was just 28 last year. Father time certainly could be catching up with Utley, who turned 36 in December.

"He's very healthy, with the way he's running the bases, sliding all over, on defense," Sandberg said. "Whether it's a mechanical thing in the box, using his legs, I don't know. But he has hit the ball hard, on the nose, so it's really hard . . . He's seeing the ball well and squaring it up. He continually gives quality at-bats as far as putting the ball in play and potentially getting a hit. It just hasn't gone his way."

Revere to right

In his first two seasons with the Phillies, Ben Revere didn't play anywhere but centerfield. In his first 27 games of 2015, Revere already has started in three different positions.

After playing the majority of April in leftfield, Revere was shifted to rightfield last night so Sandberg could get both Darin Ruf and Ryan Howard into the starting lineup. Howard was 4-for-7 with three home runs in his career against Braves starter Shelby Miller entering the night and Ruf was 8-for-16 with a home run and three doubles in his last four starts.

"I like the way Darin is swinging the bat - he's a needed righthanded bat in a lineup," Sandberg said. "So this allows Darin to be in leftfield, which he's very familiar with, and Ben is familiar with rightfield. It creates some versatility for Ben, the ability to play all three positions. It helps going forward with making decisions, with that versatility."

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