On any other day, a mustache-less Mike Schmidt would top the headlines coming out of Clearwater.
But it is not this day.
On Wednesday it was revealed that one Mr. Chase Utley will actually take to the field and play in real spring training baseball games, starting with Friday’s intrasquad game and continuing on Saturday in their first official contest against the Houston Astros.
Oh, it is a happy day indeed.
Why is this so significant? Considering Utley hasn’t played in a Grapefruit League game since 2010, this is a pretty big deal.
What it means is Utley’s knees appear healthy enough to play real live baseball games. They appear healthy enough to allow him to field ground balls without the aid of an apparatus of some kind. They appear healthy enough to let him hit against real live pitchers, throwing their hard straightballs and whatnot.
Even better news is that Utley has been a full participant in spring training so far this year, with no issues as of yet.
Of course, the key term is, “as of yet.”
No one, especially not the Phillies, want their second baseman to suffer a setback, so they’ll balance the need for Utley to stay on a regular schedule with making sure he gets the rest he needs.
Whether they want to admit it or not, Phils fans are guarding their hearts against the feared report that reads something like, “Chase Utley says he’s experiencing discomfort in his knees and will sit out for a few days,” because that comment will likely be followed by, “Utley says his knees are not feeling better, will see a specialist in Philadelphia,” and ultimately, “Utley’s troublesome knees knock him out of action for two months.”
Been there. Done that.
Manager Charlie Manuel said he’s not concerned with Utley getting the same number of at bats as everybody else, but it sure would be helpful for an offense that is expected to struggle a bit this year to have a Chase Utley that is fully ready for April 1.
So, some good news, Phils fans. Chase Utley appears ready to go.
Without a stool and everything.