Utley to Third Base? Say What?

Chase Utley is a quiet man publicly, but privately he can talk.

He speaks frequently with Ruben Amaro Jr. about the future of the Phillies. Looking into the near future, Utley is smart enough to know they need an everyday third baseman next season. The Phillies will not pick up Placido Polanco’s $5.5 million club option, Kevin Frandsen is not viewed as an everyday player, Jimmy Rollins is not moving from shortstop, Carlos Ruiz is going to remain behind the plate and the free-agent market is less than desirable, unless Kevin Youkilis, Scott Rolen or Brandon Inge get folks excited.

So that is why Utley asked Amaro a very interesting question Monday.

“Can I play third base?” he said.

“Can you?” Amaro replied.

“I don’t know, can I?” he said.

The experiment began early this afternoon at Citizens Bank Park with Utley taking ground balls at third base. Nobody was supposed to see it, but 94 WIP had been broadcasting its afternoon show at the time, saw Utley, broadcast it and tweeted it. And so Utley stood on the field for a couple minutes before tonight’s game against the New York Mets and reluctantly discussed it.

“I figured I’d give it a try, get back over there, get my feet wet, just get a feel for that position,” Utley said. “I played there probably 10 years ago. It went so-so. I thought it could be an option in the future. Again, it’s way too early to have an opinion either way on how it’s going to go. I may take some more ground balls there in the future, but who knows what the future has in store? But I think if I’m able to play over there it could create some more flexibility as far as the organization is concerned. It may not. It’s just something I wanted to give a try. I may do it again.”

Utley played third base at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2002, the last time he has played there. He committed 28 errors in 340 chances in 123 games at third. He had problems making the throw, although he improved late in the season. But once the Phillies signed free agent David Bell to a four-year contract in the 2002 offseason it ended any thoughts Utley would become their third baseman.

But Utley wants to give it a shot again, although nobody Wednesday could say how much of a shot it would be. Utley would not say how frequently he would take ground balls before games. Amaro would not say if Utley would play a game at third base before the end of the season, although it would be puzzling not see him play there at all.

After all, this was the first day.

But boy is it interesting.

“It just makes sense,” Amaro said. “If the player is willing to give it a shot or contemplate it, why not? What’s the downside? There’s no real downside. No idea (if it’s realistic). But it’s worth exploring if he’s willing to do it.”

Perhaps ideally for the Phillies, Utley plays competently at third base and Freddy Galvis becomes the team’s second baseman. Amaro even hinted that in a perfect world Double-A Reading third baseman Cody Asche continues to develop and is ready to join the big leagues in 2014. Maybe Utley moves back to second base at that point, assuming the Phillies and Utley work out a contract extension. (Utley, who rejected the idea of moving into the outfield, becomes a free agent after next season.)

But how much will the Phillies know about Utley before the end of this season? It would seem to be a considerable risk to enter the offseason not truly knowing how well Utley can handle the position, but going into Spring Training 2013 with the expectation he will be the man at third.

“Of course it’s a risk,” Amaro said. “But it also may be a great option. It doesn’t cost us anything to have it be an option for us or at least explore it. … Chase is kind of a different animal. If Chase tells me and proclaims himself ready to do something, unless he can’t prove it you have to kind of believe him.”

Utley told the Phillies he would be healthy to start the season, but late in Spring Training his balky knees betrayed him and he did not rejoin the team until June 27. Amaro said Wednesday what Utley would not say, but certainly could be an impetus for this idea: playing third base could be easier on Utley’s knees. There is less ground to cover. He does not have to worry about base runners upending him trying to break up double plays.

“He feels very good right now,” Amaro said. “You watch him play. He’s moving good. Obviously as he gets older, the wear and tear may make it a little more difficult. Maybe something to think about as far as a new position. But right now he feels very good. He did this not because he doesn’t feel good. He’s trying to alleviate a problem.”

The Phillies have a hole at third base. Utley could fill it nicely.

“It was just something I wanted to do,” Utley said. “I may pursue it a little bit more.”

11 Comments

Well if I judged his remarks by what happened in the off season meaning Chase never told anyone until Spring Training that he had a problem with his other leg then I have to think that his reasoning regarding 3rd is that he’ll save wear n tear on his legs.
Sorry, but,based on past behavior that is how I see it.Hope I’m wrong,but,how ould any of us know. I doubt if Chase would ever say if I was.

Rube needs to get an accomplished 3rd sacker that can hit and hit with some power.

Give Chase a shot at third. I see no downside here unless Utley’s knees give out in spring training again. This could be a plus for the team’s flexibility and it could extend his career on those shaky knees. This looks like a win-win situation especially with so few options on the free agents market this year. The only free agent exception I see as an options could be YOUK !!

Bring Rolen back. Then we can have the infield we were always supposed to have 5 years too late!

Rolen would be a good choice but he has 2 problems: 1) He wanted to get out of Philadelphia in the worse way…will he even want to come back. 2) Over the last few years, he seems to have been on the DL “way to many time”. He is a really healthy choice. With Howard and Utley be injured and Rollins getting older do you want to add Scott Rolen. You could conceivably have the whole infield for significant periods of time on DL. I would shy away from Scott at this point in his career even though if would be nice to bring him home to Philadelphia.

You make very good points and Ruben should go another route.However I don’t think Chase is the answer after hearing his of his performance in trying to play 3rd in the minors.

What idiot would wan Rolen?! He’s terrible.

Chase at 3rd is a perfect solution except-what if he starts season on DL like past two years? What if he can’t make the throw (original issue in minors)? Then we go into season with no 3B like we went into this year with no 1B or 2B. Rather have good 3B on everyday basis and freddy as utility guy. if utley can play 3rd we can use that as insurance

My theory is that Polanco’s problem this year and last year have been due, in no small part, to the extra distance required to throw from third to first when compared to throwing from second to first on a regular basis. Utley being able to do it on a spot basis is a lot different from being able to do it over the long haul as proven by Polanco.

I think Polanco’s problems health wise are from getting older. It happens to everyone that is why they tretire.

If Pete Rose could play a competent 3B, Chase Utley certainly can. Chase is certainly one of the better fielding 2B in MLB, but Galvis is GG worthy. The defense would only get better.

He didn’t do well the other day and his minor league trials at 3rd weren’t good at all.He made a lot of errors mostly throwing errors. The throw from 3rd base is much different than the throw from 2nd.

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