Spring Training, along with allowing the players to get loose and ready for the regular season, brings along with it a number of story-lines each season. Most of these stories are about Minor League prospects playing themselves into a big league job thanks to a monster March, or about a pair of veteran pitchers battling it out for the final rotation spot. The Phillies have had their fair share of those this year, thanks to the likes of Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, and Domonic Brown coming into the year with something to prove.
But one player that we haven't been talking too much about this spring has been Chase Utley, who arguably has more to prove than anyone else on the roster. The veteran second baseman, who missed all of Spring Training last season due to his knee injuries, is playing in March for the first time since 2010. And maybe it's just me, but there hasn't been a ton of fanfare around it.
While his performance in the box has been iffy, with a .179 batting average with one homer, it doesn't really mean much at all, because Spring Training is, well, Spring Training. Still, it is fairly impressive and mildly interesting that a guy hitting .179 has a .343 on-base percentage, if I must say. The important thing isn't that he slugged his first spring training homer on Tuesday, but that he's been playing on a daily basis over the course of the month.
Through Tuesday, the Phillies have had 16 spring games, and Utley has appeared in 11 of them. It's a far cry from a year ago, when some folks weren't even sure if he was going to be able to play during the season, at all. Now, he's played in the majority of the team's Spring Training games, without there being so much of a hint of his injury bothering him.
What this says about his ability to play 140 games or so during the regular season is unknown, but it's encouraging nonetheless, considering how important he is to the offense. If he is healthy, then the middle of the order is a lot stronger and a lot deeper with him in the three hole in the lineup.
Quite frankly, all this amounts to a hill of beans if he can't stay healthy during the season, or if Charlie Manuel doesn't rest him enough, or if he flat-out just loses the ability to hit, but I can't imagine that last one is likely to happen, at all.
The point is that, while we all pay attention to Roy Halladay's velocity or Ryan Howard's homers, perhaps the most important player on the team is the one who hasn't gotten much attention at all.