Chase Utley’s 2009 wasn’t bad by most standards, but it was an off year for the man most see as the best second baseman in baseball. He had his lowest OPS in 5 years and played the least amount of games since he became a regular starter as recovered from a torn ligament in his thumb. Arriving in Clearwater this week, Utley is feeling healthy and looking forward to a productive 2011.
“Baseball is a game of failure and good players learn how to deal with that failure and not let it affect them,” Utley said. “This year is no different. I’m going to try to improve on years past and go from there.”
Somewhat lost in the Cliff Lee craziness of the Phillies offseason was the fact that the team brought in hall of famer Ryne Sandberg to coach their triple A team. The fact that one of the great second baseman of all time is in the organization has not been lost on Utley.
“Without a doubt I’m planning to pick his brain,” Utley said. “We’ve already had a few conversations. He’s one of the best second basemen of all-time. I’d be dumb not to pick his brain.”
Phils manager Charlie Manuel says he hopes to give Chase a few more breaks to help preserve him over the course of the season, but that Utley is still going to play 145-150 games. As Manuel admits, it’s tough to keep the fan favorite off the field.
“He doesn’t want to come out of the lineup and he wants to play every day,” Manuel said. “But there are times you have to make up you’re mind and sit him.”
“I think Ut is the kind of guy who doesn’t look for attention and I’m not sure he has to have it at all. He loves baseball and he wants to play right and he wants our team to play right. His expectation of himself is high. I think they see how he plays and nationally, not only in Philadelphia, but when guys see how he plays, how he goes about it and how hard he plays, his makeup, I think that definitely helps people like to sit and watch him play. He’s quiet, he doesn’t smile a lot and he’s intense. He’s very professional.”