While nearly every other major leaguer who is not headed to the postseason takes the next week or 3 to rest and relax following the grind of the last 8 months, Utley will keep his legs moving for the entirety of the offseason.
"At this point, I don't think it would be beneficial to slow it down," Utley said. "I know I feel good right now. And I want to continue to feel good. So taking a week or 2 off, I'm not sure how I'm going to respond. I'd rather just keep going, keep moving forward and going that way."
After playing in just 103 games in 2011 due to missing the first 7 weeks with chondromalacia in his right knee, Utley tried to rest last winter in an effort to have his best legs under him when he showed up to Clearwater, Fla., in February. But his legs didn't respond the way he had hoped. Only this time he had the same ailment in his left knee.
Utley missed all of spring training for the second straight year, but left for Arizona in mid-March to work with Brett Fischer, a physical therapist based in Phoenix. Utley missed more time this season - he didn't play his first game until June 27 - but after working with Fischer he adopted better strength and flexibility programs into his workout routine.
The results have showed up in the box scores. With one game left in the season, Utley had 11 home runs in 358 plate appearances.
A year ago, Utley needed 100 more plate appearances to amass the same home run total.
Utley's legs appeared to slow last September: .205 batting average, .295 on-base percentage, .632 OPS and five extra-base hits in 22 games. But he didn't suffer from the same slide this September: .299/.405/.838 with nine extra-base hits in 27 games.
Since the training program has worked, Utley isn't going to veer away from it in the offseason. He will continue running and working on his leg-strengthening exercises, and he plans to keep Fischer in the loop, too.
Utley won't get a do-over from last winter. But he will have the opportunity to approach the same problem with more knowledge and experience this winter, with the goal of playing in his first Opening Day in 3 years.
"I do have a better idea [of how to go about it]," Utley said. "The only difference this offseason than the past is there is just going to be completely no downtime at all. And that's really it. Looking at the big picture, that's the biggest thing. No downtime for me, I'm hoping and I'm optimistic that will be beneficial."
And maybe he'll even have a tot-sized training buddy to keep him moving, too.
"He's about to [start walking], he's there," Utley said of his son. "He's moving around quick."
Ruf returns to lineup
After sitting on the bench for his first 14 big-league games, Darin Ruf was in the starting lineup for the eighth straight game on Tuesday night.
He has made an impression on his manager, who batted him fifth against the Nationals. And Ruf rewarded Manuel's decision by hitting solo home runs in the fourth and eighth innings. Ruf has now hit safely in each of his starts.
"I like Ruf's swing," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I like his setup, I like his swing . . . I think he has a chance to hit. His swing is good. He's hit everywhere he's been. I like what I see out of him as far as the ball jumping out of his bat, he's got power, he's got power to all fields, he doesn't mind hitting the ball to the right side of the diamond. I like him."
Ruf has made six of his eight starts in leftfield, a position he didn't begin playing until after the All-Star break at Double A Reading. He'll continue to get comfortable with the outfield by playing winter ball.
Manuel has approved of the rookie's work in left in the last week.
"I think he can definitely be adequate," Manuel said. "I compare him, and I think he can be, like a Raul Ibanez in leftfield. Kind of that order as far as fielding goes."
Contact Ryan Lawrence at firstname.lastname@example.org.