Struggling Utley Hits Walkoff in 14th

Chase Utley’s epic early season numbers have glided back to earth enough for us to notice, but not really care all that much. That’s because there’s so much else to complain about that it seems silly to bitch about Utley hitting .296 just before the calendar turns to July.

On Thursday, Utley hit a walkoff home run in the 14th inning to beat the Miami Marlins – it was his third career walkoff, and the home run placed him a tie with Greg Luzinski for 6th on the Phillies all-time list. But back to the struggles.

In June, even after last night, Utley is hitting just .242. Is this a sign of him slowing? Ryne Sandberg said prior to Thursday’s game that he isn’t overly concerned, and has been steadfast in his belief. When asked if it’s hard to take him out of the lineup, Sandberg danced around the topic a bit, although the answer is probably a hearty “yes.”

While the Phillies would probably like to give Utley a day a week to rest, they’re jostling for positioning and can ill-afford to have their best player hit the pine for too long. Cesar Hernandez has been a fine backup who should see a little more of the field, but Sandberg can’t seem to bring himself to do it.

Personally, I do think more rest is needed, and as Sandberg said he’ll try to pick his spots accordingly. He’ll likely see a day off this weekend following last night’s marathon and a double-header on Saturday, plus an early start Sunday. But the more Utley plays, the more he runs himself into the ground. Rest is necessary, but how much?

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