Phils Say Utley Might Stick

There are those who think prospects should be in the minors until there is an everyday job for them in the majors. Others think it's okay to bring a guy up to the "the show" and let him ease his way into the lineup. In general, the Phillies philosophy has been to wait until there was an opening. Pat Burrell, Jimmy Rollins and now, Marlon Byrd have all basically taken that road, with the exception of late season auditions for Rollins and Byrd. That trend may change this spring.

Chase Utley was the Phillies 1st round pick in the June 2000 draft and was described as being one of those "fast track" guys who could reach the majors in a hurry. When he was drafted, there were people in the Phillies organization that thought he could be in the majors late in 2002. Others said he would likely start the 2003 season as the Phillies secondbaseman, while others thought it would be during the 2003 season or certainly to start the 2004 season. The talk though was always as Utley coming to the majors with a full-time job. Now, the talk is of bringing him north with the club and letting him drink in the atmosphere of the majors.

With injuries and changing roles on the pitching staff, manager Larry Bowa is toying with the idea of carrying 11 pitchers. That would mean that both Nick Punto and Jason Michaels who were fighting for the final spot on the roster could make the team. Again, here's where the injury factor comes in, because Michaels will start the season on the DL. That combined with the fact that Utley has done everything to raise his stock this spring could mean a part-time job for the young secondbaseman.

Throughout the organization, from Ed Wade and Mike Arbuckle, to Larry Bowa, John Vukovich and Greg Gross, the thought is that Utley would make the most of the opportunity and that it might even be good for him. "I don't think he'd be stunted by it. If he ends up sticking, he'll make the most of it," Wade told The Philadelphia Daily News.

With Placido Polanco starting at second and one rookie – Marlon Byrd – already in the lineup, the Phillies probably don't want to push Utley into a starting job. The fact remains though that an emerging Utley could be helpful if anything were to happen to Polanco, including the possibility of a trade elsewhere if the Phillies find that they need to improve their pitching staff down the road. With Utley getting at least a taste of the majors, the eventual adjustment might not be quite as harsh.

Perhaps, the bigger question will come when Michaels and/or Duckworth are healthy. When Duckworth comes back, the pitching staff might expand to 12 since Joe Roa is out of options and when Michaels is healthy, the debate about adding him to the 25 man roster will start again. At that point, Utley could simply drive north on the Turnpike and find himself back at Scranton. What if Polanco is struggling though and Utley has shown some further progress? The bottom line is that it could be interesting to see who winds up where when the walking wounded return.


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