UPDATE 3:10 pm: Utley is in the lineup batting third. Like old times.
Phillies lineup vs. PIT: Rollins, Pierre, Utley, Ruiz, Pence, Victorino, Wigginton, Fontenot (3B), Valdes.
Chase Utley is finally returning to the Phillies.
Tonight at 7:05, Utley will man his familiar position at second base, bat in his familiar position in the lineup (third), and hear that familiar roar when his name is called as he steps to the plate.
And in true Utley fashion, he’ll take it all in stride.
For Phillies fans, it has become a holiday of sorts. People gearing up to buy tickets, taking the trek to Lehigh Valley for his rehab appearance on Tuesday night – Utleymania will reach it’s fever pitch when he settles into the box in the bottom of the first.
Maybe he won’t be the same guy we’ve witnessed in the past, and maybe he won’t be the savior for this rather dreadful season. But what you can count on is an upgrade at second base, where the Phillies have posted some subpar numbers. Even with Freddy Galvis providing more than anyone could have imagined, the Phillies rank 12th out of 16 NL teams in average, 13th in OPS, and last in runs scored. Phillies second basemen have drawn just 10 walks. Utley will likely change all of that.
Many have asked me what we should expect from Utley upon his return. At first, it’s unlikely he’ll play everyday, although I foresee that changing quickly once he feels comfortable. At the plate, a .275 average with 10-12 home runs over the second half of the season is fair. Anything above that from Utley would be gravy. It’s improbable that he’ll be a 30-homer, .330-average threat.
So temper expectations and in the early going, give him a reprieve if things don’t start smoothly. Utley is still finding himself at the plate and getting his timing down against major league pitching could take some time. Don’t assess him fully on 10 or 15 at-bats; it could take him a month to get his baseball legs going again.
Michael Martinez was sent down to Lehigh Valley as the corresponding move.