Utley has no intentions of leaving Phillies

Utley
Utley
Posted: July 10, 2014

MILWAUKEE - Chase Utley stood off on his own, leaning on the batting cage, watching Jimmy Rollins take his pregame cuts an hour before first pitch yesterday.

Cody Asche followed Rollins, and then Utley, and then Ryan Howard. The early-evening batting practice was ordinary, the routine monotonous.

It's the beginning of what's likely to be a very long summer for the Phillies, who already have lost more than 50 games, a week before the All-Star break. Utley could choose to shorten that long summer and say so long to Philadelphia, of course.

The trade deadline is 3 weeks from tomorrow and a player of Utley's caliber - particularly the position he plays, the leadership he brings - would make him the apple of nearly every contending team's eye, should he hit the trade market. And Utley, with a full no-trade clause, holds all of the proverbial cards; he could choose his destination.

But here's the oft-forgotten catch: Eleven months ago, Utley did just that, when he signed a 2-year, $27 million contract extension (with options for 3 more years). With the opportunity to hit free agency less than a handful of months away, Utley chose to remain with the Phillies, the organization that drafted him in 2000. It also was the team that was in fourth place, 11 games under .500, and headed for its first losing season in 11 years and second straight season out of the playoffs when he signed his name on the dotted line on Aug. 8.

Utley chose to remain with the Phillies last August. Would that stance have changed that dramatically in the last 11 months?

"No, that's still the case," Utley said yesterday afternoon at Miller Park. "I know we haven't played up to expectations, but I still have faith in this organization. We can turn it around and get back to the level were were once at."

Twenty-four hours earlier, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. promised that changes were coming. Frustrated with his team's consistently underperforming offense, Amaro said several current Triple A IronPigs, such as Darin Ruf, Grady Sizemore and Maikel Franco, could be options to infuse new life - and, at least he hopes, production - into the lineup.

Amaro, one of the more active general managers in baseball in each of his first 4 years on the job, isn't likely to stand pat at this deadline, either. With his team in last place, Amaro will attempt to sell off veteran parts for young talent.

Utley and Rollins are longshots to be a part of that purge, mainly because both hold full no-trade classes as players with at least 10 years of service time and at least 5 straight with their current team. Both are iconic figures within the organization, the best players at their respective positions in club history, players Amaro and ownership aren't eager to move.

After breaking the franchise hits record last month, Rollins said he would consider waiving his no-trade clause only "if everything is blown up." But he's also been with the organization for 18 years, is deeply rooted in the community, and has made a home and raised a family in the Philadelphia area, so Rollins is unlikely to move on.

Ditto Utley, even after watching the Phillies go from a 102-win team to one headed in the wrong direction for the second straight season.

"The way I look at it is to be positive about it," said Utley, the only Phillies player headed to the All-Star Game next week. "I definitely haven't giving up on what's going on here . . . There are some bright spots. Obviously, we can improve in some different areas. But I think every major league team could say that."

Phillers

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Cole Hamels is the first Phils pitcher since the National League began counting earned runs in 1912 to win no more than three of his first 15 starts of a season with an ERA under 3.00. Hamels is 3-5 with a 2.87 ERA; he'll make his final start before the All-Star break on Saturday vs. Stephen Strasburg (7-6, 3.47) and the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park . . . Wil Nieves (strained right quadriceps) caught eight innings in a Gulf Coast League game Monday night and is on tap to catch Cliff Lee's rehab start (elbow) with Class A Clearwater at Tampa tonight. Nieves has been sidelined since June 19. He could rejoin the Phillies this weekend . . . Third-base prospect Maikel Franco had his fifth multi-hit game in six games in July last night at Triple A Lehigh Valley. Franco was hitting .333 (13-for-39) with five extra-base hits (one home run and eight RBI) in his last 10 games entering play yesterday. Franco will join shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford (.282, .381 OBP, six home runs and 14 stolen bases between Double A Reading and Class A Clearwater) as the Phillies' representatives at Sunday's All-Star Futures Game at Target Field in Minneapolis (5 p.m., MLB Network).


On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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