Chase Utley: Life's still good with Phillies

Chase Utley limbers up during a workout in Minneapolis. He is the lone Phillie in Tuesday's game.
Chase Utley limbers up during a workout in Minneapolis. He is the lone Phillie in Tuesday's game. (JEFF ROBERSON / AP)
Posted: July 16, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS - A chair reserved for Chase Utley was positioned under a sign with his name on it, but the Phillies second baseman stood. He stared at the seat. Major League Baseball mandated that Utley - the lone Phillies all-star - spend 45 minutes Monday with reporters.

He overcame career-threatening knee injuries to start Tuesday night for the National League, but circumstances overshadowed that accomplishment.

"Are they trying to trade him?" Hunter Pence, a former teammate, wondered from across the room. "Chase is a lifer there."

There are 16 days until the July 31 trade deadline, and Utley's iconic status in Philadelphia does not appear to be in peril. He reiterated his desire to remain with the Phillies, even through a rebuilding process, as long as management reciprocates.

"I don't really see that changing," Utley said. "If someone comes up to me at some point and says, 'You're not wanted in Philadelphia anymore,' then I might have to rethink that."

A trade in the next two weeks would represent a sudden change in philosophy. Eleven months ago, the two parties agreed to a $25 million extension of their longtime relationship. The chance for a trade was last July, before that two-year contract, and Utley expressed his wish to stay. He has full no-trade rights.

At issue, of course, is the formidable challenge facing the Phillies. There are no quick fixes, and ownership is not interested in a total rebuilding job. Utley, 35, agreed with the notion that new blood could benefit the franchise.

"I think energy is important," Utley said. "Energy on the baseball field creates excitement, it creates confidence. It gets the fans into it. Any time you can add energy to the field, it's a good thing."

That implied this last-place team lacks it.

"I think there could be more," Utley said. "Definitely."

Utley would fit an assortment of contending teams this summer. Two teams in particular, San Francisco and Oakland, could upgrade at second base. Utley lives in the Bay Area. Some all-stars could use this week as a recruiting mission.

Utley has listened before.

"I've talked to guys who have played for the Phillies and gone on to other organizations and the grass isn't always greener on the other side," Utley said. "You know, I've picked some brains the last few years. I really enjoy Philadelphia. I love playing baseball in Citizens Bank Park. I love playing in front of the Philly fans. There's no better place to play, in my opinion."

Management promised Utley last summer the team would continue to contend. "I guess there is a possibility for anything," he said. Still, Utley admitted he has not envisioned the alternative.

"I personally want to win as many games as possible," he said. "So however the front office feels is the best way to go about it, I'm OK with that. The goal is to win and try to improve. If that's adding young guys, if that's keeping old guys - to me, it doesn't matter."

Few Phillies fans would blame him for looking elsewhere. Other all-stars marveled Monday at Utley's return to prominence - "He set the standard," Detroit second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "Chase is a borderline Hall of Famer" - and a few younger stars introduced themselves as Utley sipped coffee.

"Chase is one of the best baseball minds I've ever been around," Pence said. "That would be pretty amazing if they were able to make a trade to get him to San Francisco."

The chances are slim.

"If I was a betting man," Utley said, "I would say probably there would be no change."

Is Utley a betting man?

"Not really."

His 45-minute chore over, Utley happily retreated to a hotel room. Benjamin, his 21/2-year-old son, accompanied him to Monday's Home Run Derby. For Chase Utley, life is good, and he sees no reason it should change.


mgelb@phillynews.com

@magelb inquirer.com/phillieszone

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