Utley's Return Will Lead to More Controversy

With the return of Chase Utley from AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre, the controversy over the Phillies second base prospect will start all over. Everytime the Phillies put Utley on the roster, fans get excited about the possibilities that he adds to the lineup. And everytime the Phillies send him back to the minors, fans have to wonder what the Phillies are doing.

For all of the concern that the Phillies have shown about Chase Utley needing consistent playing time, they sure haven't seemed too concerned about the effects that shuttling him back and forth between Philadelphia and Scranton might have on him.

Chase Utley is back on the Phillies roster, thanks to Ricky Ledee's hemorrhoids. The Phillies decided that they couldn't work short-handed and decided to put Ledee on the DL, giving them the opportunity to put Utley back on the roster. The timing is at least pretty good. With the Phillies playing a weekend series in Boston and the DH being utilized, there is an opportunity to get Utley into the lineup. Although, with Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling pitching, it will be interesting to see if the Phillies subject Utley to facing two pitchers of their stature.

It is very possible that Utley's stay in Philadelphia could be very short. Ledee won't be out longer than necessary and should easily be ready to play when his time on the DL is up. There is at least one other roster move coming in there when Randy Wolf is activated, but that's likely to be Elizardo Ramirez' return to the minors.

While the injury situation might mean a short stay for Utley, another scenario could extend his time in the big leagues. With the trade deadline looming just five weeks away, you never know what could happen. Plus, with some clubs - primarily, the Astros - jumping into the trade market early, things could happen sooner rather than later. Although the Phillies are considering finding a new center fielder, Carlos Beltran's removal from the trade market doesn't really effect the Phils. They were never players in the Beltran sweepstakes.

Utley staying in Philly makes a lot of sense. First of all, when Ricky Ledee returns to the club, a lot of his time wll be spent as the Phillies center fielder. That takes a big left-handed bat off the Phillies bench, which is a job Utley could easily fill. Placido Polanco isn't exactly tearing apart pitchers, so Utley could also handle the second base job on at least a platoon situation. Unfortunately, the Phillies play their final three games with the DH rule this weekend in Boston, because that would have been another opportunity for Utley to see some playing time. Even if the Phillies rested David Bell once a week and moved Polanco to third with Utley playing second and started Utley over Polanco a couple times a week, Utley would find at bats. Consider too, the as much as the Phillies love having Jim Thome in the lineup, he needs a day off now and again. While Utley isn't gold glove caliber at any position, he should at least be able to make the routine plays at first.

One of these times, Utley is going to stick with the big league club. The odds point to it being sooner rather than later. With the potential for trades and just the fact that the Phillies offense needs some help, there surely has to be a spot for Utley on the roster. He has been pretty much of an RBI machine and the Phillies also should realize that every major league at bat that he does get now will make him that much more experienced when he does take over a full-time job.

Of course, there's one other scenario that hasn't been mentioned. It's a long shot, but it must be said. There is the potential that the Phillies would deal Utley. Plenty of teams have asked about him and the Phillies have at least listened to the offers. Moving Utley would be a very risky move though, since Polanco can be a free agent at the end of the season and there is no guarantee that he will stay in Philly even if he is given the chance. You could trade Utley and then lose Polanco to free agency, leaving the Phillies with a gaping hole at second base going into the winter.

However it plays out, having Chase Utley with the big league club makes sense. There is nothing more for Utley to do at AAA and the Phillies could use his abilities at the big league level now. Remember, this is a team that was built to win now and the front office owes it to the team and the fans to make that happen. Chase Utley is another piece of the puzzle toward winning.

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