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