Still no word when Chase Utley will play third

Posted: September 28, 2012

CHARLIE MANUEL didn't want to make too big a deal of the fact that Chase Utley was taking ground balls at third base a month ago. He likened it to his own, just-for-fun pregame routines as a player.

But since the Utley third-base experiment appears more serious with each passing day - the veteran second baseman could have scrapped it after a week or 2 - Manuel made a point to watch Utley's latest workout on Wednesday afternoon.

"He looked pretty good," Manuel said. "He threw good."

With less than a week remaining in the Phillies season, the obvious question is whether Manuel will feel comfortable enough by moving Utley over to third in one of the final seven games. With the Phils on the brink of elimination entering play Wednesday - they were 5 1/2 games out with eight to play - Manuel doesn't seem to have any reservations.

"When he's ready to play there, I'll put him there," Manuel said. "I have no problem with that. I think he's earned a right to have a say about it. That's how I see it."

The proverbial ball appears to be in Utley's court. When approached on Wednesday, Utley said it was still "up in the air" whether he'd get a game in at third base in the next week.

But Utley did say he has felt more comfortable with each workout at the new position in the last month and you'd guess that the competitor in him would like a try at playing third at game speed before spring training begins in 5 months.

Manuel, for one, believes Utley can make the transition.

"I think he can play there," Manuel said. "Third base is a reacting position, it's a step and a dive. It's not a position where you have to move a whole lot and have long range. You're going to be diving a lot, and balls are going to be hit hard at you.

"But I think he reacts real well to balls hit hard and I think his arm, when I see him throw, I think it's strong enough. It's no problem. I think it's just a matter of what he wants to do."

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