Chase Utley to Disabled List: “Very Likely”
March 24, 2011 Leave a comment
Today, Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. announced that Chase Utley is “very likely” going to start the 2011 season on the disabled list (ESPN News link).
Utley is yet to appear in a Spring Training game, and the general belief throughout baseball had been that a trip to the disabled list was a forgone conclusion. Utley has been battling multiple maladies in his right knee, including tendinitis, bone inflammation and chondromalacia.
In his place, the team did sign recent New York Mets castaway Luis Castillo, who will be given the rest of Spring Training to try and win the starting job until Utley returns. If Castillo can’t snag the position, utility infielder Wilson Valdez will get the bulk of the playing time. Valdez started 88 games for the Phillies last season, splitting time between second, third and shortstop.
Last season, Utley, 32, had his fair share of injury troubles. He tore a ligament in his right thumb sliding into second base. He appeared in 115 games, his fewest total since 2004, hitting .275 with 16 home runs and 65 runs batted in. A career .293 hitter, Utley had averaged 29 home runs a season along with 105 runs batted in and 109 runs scored. If his bat is absent from the Phillies line-up for an extended period of time, the team will feel the consequences. Jayson Werth has moved on via free agency and the team is already banking on bounce back season from the likes of outfielder Shane Victorino and shortstop Jimmy Rollins.
The players looking to replace Utley are nowhere close to the player offensively. Castillo hit .235 and was a shell of himself defensively for the Mets. By the end of the season, he lost his playing time to rookie Ruben Tejada and sat on the bench, going unused throughout September. Valdez had a career year in all regards, but managed to hit only .258 with four home runs. He’s a nice piece to have on your bench, but you wouldn’t want him starting day in and day out.
The Phillies are a team that is entering this season with serious questions that need to be answered offensively. We all know about their dominant rotation, but the starting pitching has overshadowed this team’s greatest flaw. Without Utley in that line-up, the Phillies become very ordinary from top to bottom.