Second Base Chase Placid - For Now

It all seemed cut and dry. Chase Utley's time in Philadelphia had come. Now, it's more torn and wet than cut and dry as manager Charlie Manuel names Placido Polanco as his starting second baseman for Monday's season opener against the Washington Nationals.

Chase Utley has got to wonder what he's got to do to win the second base job outright. Last season, he appeared ready, but was optioned out to AAA Scranton. This season, second base was all his until Placido Polanco accepted arbitration and returned to Philadelphia.

As has been talked about many times, Polanco's return isn't all bad. With David Bell one quick move away from being on the DL with a bad back, Polanco could be a valuable asset. Certainly, Bell will need a day off here and there and sitting Utley against some tougher left-handers isn't a bad idea, so there figured to be some at bats for Polanco.

Just as Sunday's final exhibition game was to begin Charlie Manuel changed the landscape around second base. In his sort of "oh, by the way..." fashion, Manuel announced that Polanco would start at second in Monday's season opener. Excuse me?

All concerned - Manuel, Polanco and Utley - said the right things on Sunday. They talked about winning and how this was a team and how it could all work out very well. There are two main concerns. First, Polanco has been mouthing off all spring about how he deserved to be in the lineup and didn't want to be coming off the bench. Then, he was upset because he was hitting eighth. He hasn't been the happiest or the quietist of campers. Second, you have to wonder about Chase Utley's psyche. Here is a guy who, like Polanco, had a huge spring and was told he was the starter. Now, he's in a platoon situation, which hasn't even been spelled out as to how it will work.

It's not a straight righty/lefty platoon. If that were the case, Utley would start the opener against right-hander Livan Hernandez. Instead, it's more of a combination gut feeling and statistical platoon. For instance, Polanco has had a lot of success against Hernandez, but so has Utley in his brief career. That leaves it up to the gut of Charlie Manuel. Nobody knows all of the issues that Manuel considered, but certainly, giving Utley an opening day start that he definitely deserves, should have been one of the factors.

Utley has become a fan favorite in Philadelphia and it will be interesting to note the reaction of the hometown fans when Placido Polanco is introduced. Will it be cheers all around or will Polanco become the new Santa Claus, with fans aching to find the last remaining snowball? Odds are that it will be somewhere in between and that there will be a smattering of boos heard around The Vault when Polanco is introduced.

Again, for the time being, all seems okay and to their credit, Polanco and Utley have discussed the matter amongst themselves and came away satisfied that they can make this work.

Keep in mind too, that this could be a showcase of Polanco's talents. If the Phillies do want to entertain thoughts of trading him, it's much easier to do if he's playing on a regular basis and putting up decent numbers. That could also be one of the factors in Manuel's decision to platoon the two at second base.

For now, let's keep our fingers crossed and hope that everybody involved continues to say and do all the right things.


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