Will Utley Chase Polanco From Starting Lineup?

Second baseman Placido Polanco is scheduled to come off of the disabled list early this week, meanwhile his replacement, Chase Utley has been on a tear since joining the club in Arizona. With Polanco also talented enough to play third base there are many ways for Bowa to manage this situation, the question is which one will he choose?

Chase Utley has long been billed the second baseman of the future, and he is proving that point as of late. Since being recalled from AAA Scranton, Utley is hitting .310 with four homeruns and 16 RBI. Those are some outstanding numbers for a young player, only being in the big leagues for 11 games this season.

The problem with this situation is that Placido Polanco's recent injury is the reason for Utley's call up and he is scheduled to come off of the DL early this week. Polanco is well short of the numbers he posted a year ago, only hitting .223 with one home run and one RBI. Granted, no player should ever lose his job due to injury, but with Utley's hot play as of late one has to wonder how much job security Polanco has when he makes it back into the lineup.

Last season Polanco spent time both at second and third base due to David Bell's oft-injured season and excelled on defense at both positions. Utley's defense can be a liability at times, but his production at the plate has made up for that weakness. The problem this season is, that Bell is having a great year, hitting five home runs and tallying 20 RBI with a .286 batting average. So, on the surface, platooning Polanco and Bell once again this year just doesn't make much sense.

More likely, Polanco and Utley will wind up splitting time at second. But what will Bowa do if Polanco struggles once again after he returns to form after his injury? When Pat Burrell went through his season long slump, Bowa stubbornly left his slugger in the lineup in hopes that he would come out of his slump, which never happened. Burrell became a liability to the club and arguably is one of the reasons that it fell short of making the playoffs in 2003. Bowa cannot make the same mistake with Polanco this time around.

In the short term, platooning the two-second baseman makes sense. But there are long-term questions that need to be asked. Utley was the fifteenth overall selection in the 2000 draft and has paid his dues in the minor leagues. Since being drafted he has been hailed as the second baseman of the future. That future should be now. It is clear that Utley is the right man for the job, and Polanco is a tradeable asset that could bring more help to a franchise gunning for it's first playoff appearance in eleven seasons.

Polanco has often been in the middle of trade rumors and if Utley continues to perform like he has been recently, it may be time to finally pull the trigger on one of those moves. Polanco obviously is a very underrated and extremely talented player both at the plate and in the field, and would easily catch the eye of general managers across the league. Ed Wade can easily pull the trigger on a move to bring a solid leadoff hitter to town, or even another middle reliever to provide, pardon the pun, more relief to the team's bullpen.

Whatever Larry Bowa decides to do with Polanco, he deserves the right to win back his starting job, but Chase Utley also is worthy of the right to remain in the starting lineup. Both are quality players and should be able to play everyday. However, it is apparent that the future is now, for the Phillies and Chase Utley.

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