Nobody really knew how Chase Utley would perform after missing so much time due to knee trouble. There was a fear that he wouldn’t be strong enough to drive the ball.
Yet among all the disappointments, Utley’s impressive return has been among the positive developments for the Phillies.
Utley’s solo home run off Trevor Cahill in the fifth inning of Sunday’s 5-4 win over the Diamondbacks was his seventh in 106 at-bats. His average is up to .264, and Utley has reached base safely via hit or walk in 17 of his 20 games since the All-Star break. His on-base percentage in those 20 games is .404.
“He is swinging pretty good,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “He is showing quick hands, a quick bat.”
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When asked if he is hitting better because he feels physically stronger or his swing is better, Utley says it is a combination of both.
“One has to do with the other,” he said. “I have built some more strength in my legs and I still feel like I can get stronger.”
Either way, he seems awfully confident at the plate.
“When you see him take balls down and away and hit them hard to right field, that is staying on the baseball and that is real good,” Manuel said.
Utley’s home run on Sunday went to right field.
“He has been hitting the ball on the fat part of the bat,” Manuel said. “He went through a stretch where he wasn’t getting hits and was (still) hitting the ball good.”
Now he’s getting hits, reaching base and doesn’t appear to be playing with any caution.
There are so many questions to answer for next year. If Utley remains healthy and keeps producing in this fashion, that is one less item on the Phillies worry list for 2013.