In his first rehab outing, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley went 2 for 3 with a walk as a designated hitter for the triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs in a 4-0 loss Sunday to visiting Norfolk. Both hits were singles.
Utley, who is hitting .179, was placed on the disabled list June 23 with right ankle inflammation. Over his last five games he was 2 for 20.
"Overall, the ankle is feeling the best that it has felt all year," Utley said in statements distributed by the IronPigs.
Utley thought he fared well at the plate. "Some at-bats I had decent timing and others I didn't," he said. "It's a work in progress, but overall, it was good."
After the Phillies' 6-2 loss to Atlanta on Sunday, interim manager Pete Mackanin said that Utley would play for Reading on Tuesday and Wednesday in games at Trenton. After that, he will be reevaluated.
Cesar Hernandez has played well and certainly looks like the second baseman for the present and future. But Mackanin said that when Utley returns to the Phillies, it should be in a meaningful role.
"Let me put it this way: I am not just going to dump Chase Utley on the bench," Mackanin said. "He is going to get playing time somewhere, and I will find the playing time."
Mackanin said he spoke with Utley on Saturday.
"I will move him around, I can give Cesar a day off here, and play Cesar at shortstop, for example, to allow Utley to get some at-bats," Mackanin said. "It is important for us to get him at-bats and I will do that. He might play first base one day, but I will try to get him as many at-bats as I can."
Then Mackanin added the kicker.
"There is no way I will let him just sit on the bench because we still think he has value and I think he has a lot left."
Whether he has trade value remains to be seen. Utley has a no-trade clause, but the chance to play for a contender could be appealing. The Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Angels have been reported to have some interest.
"I try not to pay too much attention," Utley said when asked about the rumors. "Obviously I have friends that send me stuff all the time, but like I said, my whole goal is just to get healthy and get back to the big leagues."
When the Dodgers visit Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday, it will be the first game that Phillies all-time hit leader Jimmy Rollins will play as an opponent in Philadelphia. He is hitting .216 with 11 home runs and 33 RBIs.
- Marc Narducci