Phillies' Utley volunteers to try third base

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

When one Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher being shut down and scheduled to undergo elbow surgery isn't the biggest news of the day, it must have been because a World Series MVP had his own start scratched because of an illness. Or perhaps it was because the minor league wunderkid was called on to replace the latter for a day and the former for the rest of the season.
But Vance Worley (elbow), Cole Hamels (stomach illness) and Tyler Cloyd (International League Pitcher of the Year) didn't register on the Richter scale at Citizens Bank Park when word surfaced that five-time All-Star Chase Utley had taken groundballs at third base on Wednesday afternoon.
On what may have been the busiest day at Citizens Bank Park this year, Utley tried to quietly get in work at the hot corner before batting practice -- and, more important -- before the media arrived to the park. But a radio show broadcasting in the ballpark spied Utley at third and his secret was out.
With no obvious solution at the position for 2013 -- injury-plagued and aging All-Star Placido Polanco has a $5.5 million option and the pickings are slim on the free agent market -- Utley volunteered to give third base a try after a conversation with general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. on Monday.
"Can I play third base?" Utley asked Amaro.
"Can you?" Amaro replied.
"I don't know, can I?" he said.
The Phillies don't see any harm in finding out if Utley can make the move across the infield diamond, an experiment that is at its most infant stage. The 33-year-old Utley worked as a third baseman 10 years ago as a minor-leaguer.
"I figured I'd give it a try, get back over there, get my feet wet, just get a feel for that position," Utley said. "I played there probably 10 years ago. It went so-so. I thought it could be an option in the future. Again, it's way too early to have an opinion either way on how it's going to go.
"I may take some more groundballs there in the future, but who knows what the future has in store? But I think if I'm able to play over there, it could create some more flexibility as far as the organization is concerned. It may not. It's just something I wanted to give a try. I may do it again."
Utley made 28 errors in 123 games at third base at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2002. But after a decade in the big leagues, he has the confidence and major league experience in the infield to feel comfortable about giving it another go.
"Of course it's a risk," Amaro said. "But it also may be a great option. It doesn't cost us anything to have it be an option for us or at least explore it. ... Chase is kind of a different animal. If Chase tells me and proclaims himself ready to do something, unless he can't prove it, you have to kind of believe him."

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