It's been 76 games, but it appears that the Phillies are finally getting Chase Utley back. The veteran second baseman, who was sidelined from the get-go with knee injuries, is likely to make his 2012 debut on Wednesday evening, after successfully completing his rehab in the minor leagues.
As for how much Chase will play, that is not entirely clear. If the Phillies were smart, they would be very judicious in how they play him, because if they want to make a run at the playoffs, they'll need him to be a steady presence in the lineup for the long haul.
That's another story entirely, however. What I want to talk about now, is how the Phillies did in his absence. Specifically, how the other second baseman on the team performed while he was rehabbing his injury.
That brings us to the four headed monster of Freddy Galvis, Mike Fontenot, Pete Orr, and Michael Martinez, who had the unenviable task of filling in for Chase and making the rest of the team forget that they were short a three hole hitter, an excellent defender, and an all around great talent.
First up, Freddy Galvis, who was – for a while – one of the better stories of the year for the Phillies. Originally drafted as a shortstop, Galvis learned the ropes at second base throughout spring training, and despite not having much by way of a bat, he was tabbed as the Opening Day second baseman.
Predictably, he did not add anything to the offense, and it took him four games to notch his first career hit. He did show flashes of talent on offense, though, and more than once got into a groove and appeared to be getting more and more used to big league pitching. His .617 OPS isn't special, but at 22-years-old, he'll figure to get better.
The real story was his defense. He was widely considered to be a glove-first player, and he certainly did not disappoint. Whether it was at second base, where he spent the bulk of his time, or at shortstop, where he filled in when needed, Galvis was a defensive dynamo. His range was extraordinary, his footwork sublime, and his approach effortless. It's not normally exciting to watch a guy play defense, but Galvis was a blast to watch on the field.
Unfortunately, his season was cut short by a back-injury that would have seen him miss most of the season, which was followed shortly by a 50-game suspension, when it was learned that Galvis tested positive for performance enhancing drugs.
After Galvis, it was a bit of a mix-and-match at second between Michael Martinez, Mike Fontenot, and Pete Orr. None of them can defense nearly as well as Galvis, and their offense leaves a lot to be desired. While Freddy wasn't exactly an offensive force, this trio didn't bring much else to the table.
All told, Phillies second basemen had an ugly line of .245/.271/.381, with five homers and 37 RBIs in 75 games without Chase Utley, which totals an OPS that is some 230 points less than Utley's.
It's hard to say what Utley will bring to the table, offense-wise, but it should be a breath of fresh air over the crop of stiffs that were getting trotted out on a nightly basis. But only time will tell.