Utley, Phillies contemplating move to third base

Utley, Phillies contemplating move to third base

Utley, Phillies contemplating move to third base
NEW YORK -- It sounds like Chase Utley will play third base before the end of the season if two things happen:

One, Utley feels comfortable enough to play there.

Two, the Phillies fall from contention in the National League Wild Card race. That could happen quickly. The Phillies entered Monday's series opener against the Mets at Citi Field four games out of the second NL Wild Card spot with just 15 games to play.

"I think I've been out there three or four times," Utley said, referring to his pregame workouts at third base. "Every time, I get a little more comfortable. But I think there's still a lot of work to be done. So far it's going well. I feel like I've progressed a little bit, but there's still more room for improvement."

Utley is taking this potential move seriously. He spoke with Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and manager Charlie Manuel in Manuel's office before batting practice. He later spoke with Mets third baseman David Wright behind the batting cage, with Wright even crouching into a defensive position as he offered advice.

"I think he's doing fine," Amaro said.

Fine enough to play third base next season?

"Oh, I don't know about that," Amaro said.

Asked if the Phillies can learn enough about Utley at third base if he plays just a couple of games there before the end of the season, Amaro said, "Realistically, I don't think so. But if he really dedicates himself to doing it, I think the probability of him being able to do it is much higher than it is with other people. I think more than anything else, this is finding out if in fact he feels comfortable enough doing it. Having him play third base just gives us another option. And what's wrong with giving us another option?"

Both Amaro and Manuel agree the Phillies are better defensively in 2013 with Freddy Galvis at second base and Utley at third base, despite the uncertainty of Utley's ability to play there. Certainly if they feel Utley can play third base, it would give the Phillies one less thing to worry about in the offseason, which would be a plus because Amaro said the market for third basemen via trade or free agency is "not very good."

But here's the big question: If Utley only plays a couple of games at third base and Amaro does not think he can truly evaluate Utley's ability to play there based on just a couple of games, how do the Phillies go into the offseason knowing Utley is their 2013 third baseman?

"I don't necessarily," Amaro said. "It becomes riskier. Then you take a risk sometimes. Sometimes it's OK to take a risk."