Hernandez usurps Utley as second baseman

Phillies rookie earns spot while veteran awaits return from DL

Hernandez usurps Utley as second baseman

LOS ANGELES -- Chase Utley is the greatest second baseman in Phillies history, but it appears Cesar Hernandez's time has come.

Hernandez, 25, is hitting .301 (55-for-183) with 10 doubles, one triple, one home run, 19 RBIs and a .768 OPS in 72 games. He was 1-for-4 with a walk and a strikeout in Tuesday night's 7-2 win over the Dodgers.

But is the iconic Utley, 36, still the primary second baseman when he returns from the DL?

"Not for me he's not," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "Cesar Hernandez is our best second baseman."

So whenever Utley returns …

"I would assume that Cesar will be our second baseman," Amaro said. "Chase's situation will kind of dictate itself, how he feels. There'll be time for him to play, I think. He could play some first base. He could play some second. But as far as I'm concerned, just like what our plan has been for a long, long time, that's to give opportunities to young men who could be part of our future. Cesar Hernandez has been one of our best players on the field right now in a variety of ways."

Not surprisingly, Utley had little reaction about Amaro's comments.

"Well, I think Cesar has done a really good job," Utley said. "There you go."

Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin seems to be on board with Amaro. Asked for a health update on Utley before the game, Mackanin said, "I haven't heard a word. But with Cesar playing so well, it's not really a big deal for the simple reason that Utley has not played and seen pitching, so when he does come back … you really can't count on him. How long has it been? Two weeks. And by the time he starts taking BP and all of that stuff, it's probably going to be a month before he comes back in and then what do you do? I don't know."

Utley's ankle has improved since a cortisone injection. He could begin baseball activities before the end of the road trip.

He also said recently he could be back on the field before the end of the month.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.