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Notes: Utley knows how Howard feels

Notes: Utley knows how Howard feels

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CLEARWATER, Fla. -- If anyone can relate to Ryan Howard's situation, it's Chase Utley.

This time last year, the Phillies' second baseman was in a similar spot. With less than two seasons of Major League service time -- and still a year removed from salary arbitration -- Utley agreed to a one-year, $500,000 contract.

He followed up a breakout 2005 season with an even better 2006, then signed a seven-year, $85 million pact, keeping him with the Phillies through the 2013 season.

Howard, who had his contract renewed on Friday and will make $900,000 this season, should reach that cash line next year.

"We all understand the situation we're in as young players," Utley said. "Basically, the club has the upper hand at this point, but I don't think it's going to affect Ryan one bit. He understands how the process works."

Utley is convinced that this won't affect how Howard approaches his job.

"He wants to be the best player he can be, whether he's making $900,000 or $100 million," Utley said. "It's all about the game. Your agent has to deal with it. We just go out and play and you work your way up. We're lucky enough to be playing Major League Baseball. He's going to continue to improve. He's amazing and still has room to improve."

With the business side out of way, Utley understands one thing very well: Barring a trade, he and Howard will be guaranteed to be teammates until at least through the 2011 season.

"He's definitely not going anywhere," Utley said. "I certainly hope not. This is just a part of the process."

Run, Shane, run: The Davey Lopes effect may already by showing, as Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino stole bases in the first inning on Friday against the Indians.

Rollins is already an adept base stealer, and Victorino is hoping for similar success. His issue is confidence, specifically reading pitchers and picking the right spots.

"I want him to run," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I'd like to see Victorino get more than four [as he did in 2006]. He has a chance to steal 30 and up. He's working on breaks and leads. The more he runs, the more confidence he'll get."

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Victorino stole bases in the Minors, and worked with Lopes when the two were in San Diego. As the Phillies' first-base coach, Lope will be 10 feet away when Victorino first.

"Having Davey there is a great help," Victorino said. "He's telling me what to look for. He sees a lot."

In discussing the art of base stealing, Lopes makes a distinction between a guy who steals bases and a base stealer, and Victorino wants to evolve into the latter.

"I can steal bases because of my speed, but if I can put it all together, stolen bases should come at will," Victorino said.

You blew it: Brett Myers gave Howard some ribbing when Howard tracked down a foul pop by Jason Michaels in Friday's 6-4 win over Cleveland. Howard made the tough catch, but Myers would've preferred to have the ball drop.

Myers wanted to strike out Michaels, his former teammate.

"[Myers] said, 'What are you doing? I had him right where I wanted him,'" Howard said, laughing. "I said, 'My bad.' I did everything I could to drop that ball."

Philling in: Antonio Alfonseca looked good in recording a save on Friday, allowing a hit in a scoreless inning. "He's competing for a spot on the team, but I think he'd like the setup role," Manuel said. ... Closer Tom Gordon will pitch in a simulated game on Saturday morning at the Carpenter Complex, and won't make the 2 1/2-hour trek to Fort Myers. Though Manuel said there's nothing wrong with Gordon, who missed time last season with shoulder inflammation, the skipper plans to go easy on Gordon this spring. "My goal is to have him ready for Opening Day," Manuel said. ... Howard, Utley, Pat Burrell, Aaron Rowand and Jayson Werth are expected to make the trip to play the Red Sox.

Coming up: Adam Eaton will make his Phillies debut against the Red Sox in Fort Myers on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. ET. He'll be opposed by Tim Wakefield. Geoff Geary, Matt Smith and Brian Mazone are also scheduled to pitch for Philadelphia. Jonathan Papelbon and Joel Pineiro are slated to go for Boston.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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