Utley homers again, Howard debuts

Posted: June 07, 2012

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Two days after seeing live pitching for the first time in 2012, Chase Utley was joined by teammate Ryan Howard in an extended-spring-training game Wednesday.

The results - for both players - were just as productive as they were for Utley on Monday.

Facing a team of young players from the Toronto Blue Jays organization at Bright House Field, Howard was 2 for 4 with two walks, and Utley was 2 for 5 with a walk. Howard led off each inning and Utley hit third or fourth, and neither infielder played defense. Howard, who is recovering from an Achilles injury, did not run the bases.

Utley is rehabilitating sore knees. His hits came in the form of a double that one-hopped the fence in center field and a home run that was driven high up the berm in right-center.

On a gray, muggy morning, Joe Jordan, the Phillies' director of player development, was on hand and said he was pleased with what he saw from the team's recuperating stars.

"It's hard to gauge it sometimes, because when they're facing some young pitchers on the mound, and sometimes the quality of strikes isn't very good," Jordan said after the duo was removed as the game reached the seventh inning. "So these guys are trying to see pitches, they're trying to get themselves in that major-league strike zone.

"It's hard to do here. But again, I think they're making progress. It's all going in the right direction."

The Blue Jays used young lefthanders Zak Adams and Griffin Murphy.

For Howard, it was his first "live game action" since the end of the 2011 playoffs as he works his way back from injury. Both of his hits were flares - one over the shortstop's head to short left field, and one down the line in right.

Jordan acknowledged that the players are not on similar timetables, in fact saying he's not sure they're on timetables at all. But he saw specifics from both hitters that he liked.

On Howard:

"I saw a couple of things. I saw him adjust his hands a couple of times on balls on the inner half. Those are the things that I wanted to see. He saw some lefthanded breaking balls. I believe there's progress."

On Utley:

"He just looks like he knows where the barrel is going every time. He looked good, real good. I think he went two strikes in three or four at-bats, maybe. He was comfortable doing that. He squared up some balls pretty good today."

As they departed the field up the left-field line, the players stopped to sign autographs for a small clutch of fans while the remaining minor-leaguers played on in the seventh inning. Eventually the game was called because of a strong rain, which held off until the big-leaguers made their way out of the stadium.

Team officials once again said there would be no access to either player before or after the game.

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