CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley has started spring training with a sore right ankle and a sunny disposition on the outlook of his rebuilding team.
Utley, entering his 13th year with the Phillies, sprained his ankle last month while doing infield work. He said Monday the minor injury ”put a wrinkle” in his offseason workout program, but it hasn’t limited him from taking regular batting practice and fielding work in his first three days in camp.
Phillies position players were required to report to camp by Monday, with the team’s first full squad workout scheduled for Tuesday.
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”It’s improved dramatically over the past two weeks but it’s still not perfect,” Utley said. ”Range of motion is almost there. The strength is not quite where I want it to be. The last thing I want to do is compensate for it and set off some type of chain reaction.”
Utley, 36, is three springs removed from dealing with chronic knee pain that sidelined him for all of spring training. After battling knee issues for the first two months of both 2011 and 2012, Utley has found a way to stay on the field in the last two seasons.
But the Phillies position in the National League East standings has plummeted during that time; in 2014, the team finished in last place for the first time since 2000.
The front office committed to a rebuild this winter, which included trading Utley’s longtime double play partner, shortstop Jimmy Rollins.
”It’s definitely going to be different,” Utley said of Rollins, now with the Los Angeles Dodgers. ”I came up (in 2003) and Jimmy already had a few years in the big leagues. He taught me a lot, he helped me out. I thought we made each other better.”
Like Rollins, Utley has a full no-trade clause as a player with at least 10 years in the big leagues and the last five years with the same team. But while he’d listen if approached with a trade that would send him to a contender, Utley prefers to stay with the team that drafted him as a 21-year-old from UCLA in 2000.
”I really enjoy playing with this organization, they’ve done a lot for me, personally, and put together some pretty good teams over the years,” said Utley, an integral member of Phillies teams that won five straight division titles, two NL pennants and a World Series from 2007-11. ”So I have a lot of respect for the people making decisions, they’ve always put together a great bunch of guys, we made it work out.”
Utley said if approached by general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. about any deal, he would listen out of respect for the executive and the Phillies, then take it from there.
”I want nothing more than to play for this organization for as long as I can,” he said.