Hey, there's a lot to be said for the power of positive thinking. But there are a couple things that are as certain as 60 feet, 6 inches from the mound to home plate.
One is that the fret level around Bright House Field is a lot higher than the public What-Us-Worry? posture suggests.
The other is that the baseball people have given a lot of thought to what their options are, even if they don't care to share their inner ruminations.
By the way, the last four times the Phillies have needed space on the 40-man roster recently, they've created it by dropping a pitcher. It was Jesus Sanchez and Yohan Flande at the winter meetings, Sergio Escalona after that and Drew Carpenter early in spring training. At the time, it seemed strange that they were protecting infielders at the expense of arms. With the benefit of hindsight, it can be interpreted as yet another ominous foreshadowing that Utley's physical problems didn't catch them at all by surprise.
It's been an interesting weekend for the Phillies. The rightfield question took a step toward resolving itself when Domonic Brown injured his right hand swinging at a pitch against the Tigers on Saturday at Bright House Field. He'll have surgery tomorrow.
But as one door was closing, another was opening. The lack of progress in Utley's rehab lifts the lid on a Pandora's box of possibilities at second base.
Including yesterday's split squads - one group at home against the Rays, another at Marchant Stadium against the Tigers - the Phils have played 10 Grapefruit League games so far. Amazingly, six players have gotten a start at second base: Delwyn Young (three), Wilson Valdez and Pete Orr (two) and Brian Bocock, Josh Barfield and Cesar Hernandez one each.
Still, the first spiked shoe to drop is pretty straightforward. If Utley opens the season on the disabled list, and barring a trade, Valdez will start in his place. He started in centerfield here yesterday, and, with the help of two infield singles, went 3-for-3 against the Tigers and raised his spring average to .533. He also was thrown out twice on the bases. It will be just like when he filled in at shortstop while Jimmy Rollins was injured last year.
What happens after that is a lot less clear-cut.
Valdez' play after being handed his battlefield promotion last season has reached near mythic proportions. And it's true that he did a nice job. Which in this case is defined as batting .258 with four home runs and 35 RBI in 333 at-bats.
Not bad. Also not close to what Utley, even with his injuries the last few years, brings. For the five-time All-Star, a bad game is 0-for-3 with a couple of walks. Valdez can't be expected to make up for pop that will be missing if Utley is out for a while.
Valdez is also the Phillies' best backup at shortstop, and third base, too. Putting him in the starting lineup leaves the roster dangerously thin at those spots and makes it difficult to give Rollins and Placido Polanco an occasional day off.
If the unofficial focus has turned to finding somebody to take over Valdez' role until further notice, Young would seem to have the inside track. And, no, we're not talking about Michael Young. While he would be an ideal solution, he's still owed another $46 million and the Texas Rangers would still want more minor league talent in return than the Phillies seem to have available.
Delwyn Young, on the other hand, has started 57 games at second base in the big leagues as well as 67 in the outfield and seven at third.
Forget about moving Polanco from third back to second, too. The Phillies have even fewer replacement possibilities at the hot corner than they do at second. Cody Ransom played third for Triple A Lehigh Valley last season, but he's with the Diamondbacks now. Carlos Rivero is interesting, but he was at Double A Akron in 2010.
So, yeah, the Phillies have some ideas about what they'll do in case Utley decides to go to Lenny's for breakfast, makes a wrong turn, gets hopelessly lost and can't find his way back until sometime in July.
It's just that none of them are as good as getting good news on his condition in the next few days. Which may be why they can't bring themselves to talk about any other outcome.
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