Is Utley Hurt or Not? Looks Fine to Me


utley 1102.jpgChase Utley
said today he is a private person, so he probably would not admit if an injury affected his play.

Utley then said he is fine.

The Phillies said he is fine, too.

He looks fine tonight. Utley, who dismissed before the game that he has an injured right knee, singled and scored from first on a triple in the first inning, hit a three-run home run to right field in the second inning and made a fantastic diving catch in the third inning.

Why all the fuss? Utley entered the game hitting just .257 with 10 home runs, 26 RBIs and an .829 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, which was the lowest OPS of his career since he became an everyday player in 2005. Many had suspected Utley is hurt – Utley said Tuesday in New York, “As far as I know I’m healthy, yes.” – and Phillies first base coach Davey Lopes fueled those suspicions when he told Baseball Prospectus that, “Chase has been hampered by a little bit of a knee injury.”

“I think there’s a little confusion and maybe a little bit of a difference of opinion with what Davey said,” Utley said before the game. “In my opinion, an injury is something that keeps you off the field. When you play 162-games-plus over the course of the year you’re going to have aches and pains. That’s part of this game. That’s part of being a baseball player. In my opinion there’s no injury whatsoever.”

Utley acknowledged he has had occasional soreness in his right knee, and Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. acknowledged Utley has been on the team’s injury report, although Amaro said most of the team has been on the report.

But Utley said he sees no correlation between the soreness in his right knee and his performance at the plate.

“There’s no excuse for it,” he said. “It’s been a little bit of a battle here the last month, trying to make some adjustments, tinkering with some things. It’s part of baseball, something you’re going to have to deal with. It something I’ve been through before and a lot of people have been through before.”

“If people think that this is altering the way he bats or hits or something like that, we have no indication of that at all,” Amaro said.

Amaro said Utley puts ice on his knee “from time to time after the games. It’s not anything different than when pitchers throw their bullpens or guys have soreness in their backs. It’s part of being an athlete, a professional athlete.”

Utley said he has iced his knees, ankles and back at different times this season. Other players have, too. Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard has had both his ankles wrapped in ice after games. Carlos Ruiz has had his right shoulder wrapped in ice.

So it could be just normal aches and pains from playing every day. But the skeptics will remain skeptical. Utley played through a hip injury during the 2008 season. Utley and the Phillies downplayed its effect, but a few weeks after the Phillies won the World Series he had hip surgery. Raul Ibanez played through torn abdominal muscles in 2009. Ibanez and the Phillies downplayed them, but a few days after the Phillies lost the World Series he had surgery.

How is this different than Utley’s hip injury in 2008 and Ibanez’s abdominal injury in 2009?

“All I can tell you is that Davey is not our spokesman for our medical stuff,” Amaro said. “That comes from me or (assistant general manager) Scott Proefrock or (head athletic trainer) Scott Sheridan or Dr. (Michael) Ciccotti. This is not an injury. This is more preventative. Take it for what it’s worth, I guess.”

Amaro said he isn’t sure when he first heard about Utley’s knee injury because “it wasn’t serious enough for me to worry about it.”

Utley did not appreciate Lopes mentioning his knee.

“I’m a fairly private person,” Utley said. “I have a lot of pride to try to stay on the field, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job of doing that.”

Lopes declined comment.

Utley has looked fine running the bases and playing defense in the field. It would seem if Utley’s knee were bothering him it would show up on the field. Then again, Utley has stolen just four bases this season.

What gives?

“I haven’t been on base as much,” he said.

Utley has a .377 on-base percentage, which actually is on par with other seasons. He had a .376 OBP in 2005, when he stole 16 bases; a .379 OBP in 2006, when he stole 15 bases; a .410 OBP in 2007, when he stole nine bases; a .380 OBP in 2008, when he stole 14 bases; and a .397 OBP in 2009, when he stole a career-high 23 bases. He is on pace to steal 10 bases. He has averaged 15.4 stolen bases per year since 2004.

“In my situation you have to pick your times when you want to steal a base,” Utley said. “You have the middle of the lineup up, you definitely don’t want to run into an out there. Teams have done a better job of holding us on.”

Is Utley hurt and downplaying it? Or have some everyday aches and pains been blown out of proportion?

Nobody knows outside Utley and the Phillies, and those questions won’t subside until he starts hitting again.

*

The Zo Zone is on Facebook and Twitter. His Phillies book “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly” is available online, and at Delaware Valley bookstores!

18 Comments

a dinger, 4 RBI and gem of a defensive play after only three innings. I guess Utley is OK. As is the team.

How does a guy who is the one of the hardest, most disciplined, most meticulous athletes in MLB suddenly and unexplicably forget how to hit? If the answer has nothing to do with an injury, I’d love to hear what it is….

i guess noone saw yesterdays game. but next time instead of baez maybe use herndon. just a thought.

sorry change that.

better yet leave durbin in game.

come on dobbs pitch hitting. that boat has sailed.

Unbelievably disappointing weekend after such a good start.

Some discussion on the post-game show today as to who would be cut once Rollins comes off the DL. They wondered whether it would be Castro or Valdez. I wondered why they wouldn’t put Dobbs in that list. Granted, he’s left-haned, and they need a lefty off the bench, but can’t I find a right-handed batter who hits better than .153 off right-handers.
So what difference does it make that Dobbs bats lefty when he can’t hit right-handers? I say, keep the guy with the best chance of helping you win, and that’s either Castro or Valdez, not Dobbs.

1st off i would have taken holiday out an inning earlier.

this weeks lineup would start off.

victorino
werth
polanco
ruiz
utley
howard
ibanez
valdez

off the bench 1st

schneider
gload
francisco
dobbs
castro

try to get my rotation to start to look like this:
holloday
moyer
contreras
hamels
kendrick

when winning 1st in:
romero
durbin
herndon

when losing
baez
blanton

closer

lidge

good luck phillies

fcrescenti: OK first, you managed to misspell Halladay twice, which is very creative. If you want to take him out, learn to spell his name.

Second, the backup catcher is NEVER the first one off the bench. Don’t know which version of baseball you’re using there.

Third, I don’t know the point of your ridiculous lineup (with Howard batting 6th, Polanco 3rd and Ruiz at clean-up.
Fourth, what’s the point of aligning the rotation? You can’t dictate match-ups, and even if you could, who cares?

Fifth, I don’t know what your point was with all that.

they have a third catcher on the bench now. i thought?

anyway it is just food for thought.

3rd batter best hitter for average right now.
2nd batter slugging he has a lot of doubles. only needs a single form 3rd batter and u score a run with his speed. also can hit long ball.
4th batter on base pct. will keep pressure on. with good at bat.
1st batter by far right now best base stealer and does everthing else well.
5th utley should be our third batter but not getting it done now. watches pitches and takes walks. doesn’t swing at that many bad balls and can keep pressure on.
6th batter total bases when he drives the ball with all these guys in front of him. they will be moved around bases. hopefully not strike out. which he does to much of because he swings at bad pitches lately. they don’t want to pitch to him. and he can’t be watching the third strike.
7th batter ibanez wish he would get his average up, but he can still drive in runs.
8th batter valdez has been showing to be a little better more pop and batting average lately.

i have to go now.

oh i think of this as a team sport. sometime u have to put pressure on guys and some time u take it off. the team should share that. and don’t let the other team pitcher dream about how he can go down the line and get each guy out. shake it u when ur not going well.

good plan, fcrescenti. Let’s try to limit the # of AB’s for Utley and Howard.

that is only the plan to start the week. if it works out. u keep it. if not u slowly change it. till it gets better.

we will be getting ready for secont half of season and we are 5 games behind. guy need to slow up and guys need to go faster. the last three years have been long seasons. we need to find out which new guys are going to step up. meyers isn’t here anymore. but blantant does seem to be here yet either. maybe contreras can step up until happ is ready.

Juniors new book: How To Wreck A Franchise In Three Easy Lessons.
Subtitle: Trade for Cliff Lee, Trade for Roy Halladay, Trade Cliff Lee for nothing.

I saw Howard & Rollins on MLB last night with Bob Costas and they both disappointed that the Phils traded Lee.

karen62 : do you know how recently the show was taped?

pherrisphain: it was taped in May when the Phils were playing the Mutts. It was very entertaining.

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