Phillies Notes: Utley's in a line-drive groove

Posted: May 16, 2014

The pain in Chase Utley's knees was most visible when bat met ball in 2011. The sound was not the same, either. Just 12.7 percent of Utley's batted balls were line drives, according to Baseball Info Solutions data. His power stroke disappeared.

That is what makes Utley's .571 slugging percentage over the first six weeks of 2014 so remarkable. He doubled two more times Wednesday in a 3-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. He leads the National League with 17 doubles and three triples.

"You know what? He's driving the ball and having quality at-bats," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He just continues to swing a hot bat for us."

Utley entered Wednesday with a 24.2 percent line-drive rate, his highest since 2008. His career-high slugging percentage was .566 in 2007. He slugged .446 from 2010 to '13.

The second baseman, so far, has been immune to any prolonged slump. The Phillies, at least, can boast that.

They were quieted Wednesday by Garrett Richards, a 25-year-old righty they had never before faced. Sandberg, though, identified Utley as a diligent preparer.

"He does a good job with video, and video is available," Sandberg said. "Guys have a chance to use video, and that goes a long way with not seeing somebody. We have film on him, and guys had a chance to see him."

Gonzalez progresses

Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, the still-mysterious Cuban pitcher signed for $12 million last summer, will start Thursday for single-A Clearwater. It is the beginning of an official rehabilitation assignment for the righthander, whose shoulder tendinitis was diagnosed in spring training.

The Phillies used the last two months to reconfigure Gonzalez's mechanics. He pitched in extended spring training games with a fastball clocked in the low 90s.

Gonzalez, 27, can spend 30 more days on the disabled list, barring a setback. He will be sent to the minors when the rehab clock expires. The Phillies plan to keep him as a starting pitcher, but that strategy could change.

Extra bases

Jimmy Rollins tied Ed Delahanty for third place all-time in Phillies hits (2,211), the team said, with a single to right in the sixth inning. He is 24 hits shy of breaking Mike Schmidt's franchise record. . . . Former Phillie Raul Ibanez stole a base for the Angels in the first inning. He has two steals in his last four games, which equaled his total over his previous 280 games.

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