The Philadelphia Phillies have struggled significantly this season. Older players going through their declines have certainly hurt this team, but the bigger problem has been the injuries. Roy Halladay, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard have each missed significant time, leading to a record of 34-38. The Phillies are 8.5 back of the division leading Washington Nationals, and 5 back of the wild card spot.
That’s why it’s such good news that second baseman Chase Utley is likely to return on Wednesday. His absence has been shrouded in mystery, as the Phillies were hesitant to tell anybody when he would begin his rehab. But he’s expected to be back on Wednesday, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Over the first 3 months of the season, Phillies second baseman have combined to hit 244/273/388, ranking them 24th in the majors for production by a second baseman. Chase Utley should be able to significantly improve upon those numbers, as even last year he was able to put up a 769 OPS in an injury riddled campaign. Even if Utley is a league average hitter with his typical plus defence would make a huge difference for the struggling Phillies. Utley likely won’t make an impact right away, as he’s struggled in his rehab assignment with a 156 batting average over 32 at bats. Still, he’s an upgrade over every second baseman that the Phils have thrown out there in his absence.
Utley hasn’t played in more than 115 games since 2009, and injuries have prevented him from performing like one of the best players in the game. However, he’s still a tremendously talented player and his impact should help the Phillies return to a 500 record. At 5 games back it’s unlikely that Utley will be able to propel them to the playoffs. Especially given the fact that some of their best players are still out due to injuries. But Chase Utley is an exciting player, and it’s great for baseball that Chase Utley is scheduled to make his 2012 debut within the week.