Utley bats leadoff, goes 1-for-5 in return

Club will give infielder playing time to set up potential trade

Utley bats leadoff, goes 1-for-5 in return

SAN DIEGO -- Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin sees this as an opportunity to reset Chase Utley's season.

"I don't care what he did earlier," Mackanin said Friday afternoon at Petco Park. "We feel he's a better hitter than what he was hitting before he went on the disabled list, and we're going to give him a chance to prove me right. He can still hit."

The Phillies activated Utley from the DL on Friday after he spent more than a month there with a sprained right ankle. Utley went 1-for-5 with a single in the Phillies' 4-3, 12-inning win the Padres on Friday night.

Before going on the DL, he hit .179 (39-for-218) with seven doubles, one triple, four home runs, 25 RBIs and a .532 OPS in 65 games, making him one of the least productive hitters in baseball when he went on the DL on June 23.

But Utley hit first in Friday's lineup. The Phillies are hoping Utley can resurrect his season, which might allow them to trade him to a contender before his contract expires after the season. There is interest, too. The Angels and Cubs are just two teams that might make a run at Utley if they like what they see before the Aug. 31 waiver Trade Deadline.

Utley seems destined to be elsewhere next year anyway, so he might change his mind about not waiving his 10-and-5 no-trade rights. He has a $15 million club option for 2016 that automatically vests with 500 plate appearances this season, but the option is no longer a possibility. He entered Friday's game with 249 plate appearances.

"Only that they want him to play," said Mackanin, when asked about the front office's input in how he should use Utley. "How much or how often is up to me. And the way I do it is up to me. I'm not going to take a guy like Chase Utley, even though Cesar Hernandez is playing so well, I'm not going to take a guy like Chase Utley and just dump him on the bench and let him rot. Because I believe he can still hit. And I believe he can contribute to winning games for us.

"I can't say he's going to play every day because we have a purpose this year of trying to find out about these young guys, get them as many at-bats to see how well they finish out. I think I'll be able to get him sufficient at-bats to keep him happy and the other guys happy and kill two birds with one stone."

So Hernandez could see some time at shortstop or third base. But Mackanin said four games a week is a good number for Utley, with maybe one of those games at first base.

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.