Chase Utley played for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs on Tuesday night and Wednesday night he returns to the Phillies lineup. The Phillies All-Star missed the first part of the season because of a chronic knee condition. NBC10's Terry Ruggles spoke to Utley fans about his return to Citizens Bank Park.
Chase Utley is back!
The former Phillies All-Star finally was activated from the disabled list Wednesday after missing nearly half the season with a chronic knee condition.
Despite missing 76 games, it will be like Chase was never gone -- manager Charlie Manuel is batting Chase third and starting him at second base Wednesday night against the Pirates, according to CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury.
Chase has an impressive career line of .290/.377/.505 in nine seasons with the Phillies. But, the 33-year-old tailed off in recent seasons as his batting average dipped all the way to .259 in an injury-shortened 2011. His power numbers have also declined as his slugging has dropped from .508 in 2009 to .445 and .425 in the last two seasons.
One thing Utley does do though is get on base and see pitches. His on-base percentage was still .344 last season despite his power struggles.
Talking about struggling at the plate, Utley has done little to make anyone believe he truly is healthy -- besides building up an impressive physique -- as he struggled to a .156 batting average, one homer, five RBIs and five runs in 32 at-bats with Single-A Clearwater. He did however give a glimmer of hope that he can be the spark the 36-40 Phillies need if they hope to get back into the playoff hunt when he went 2-for-5 with a homer at Triple-A Lehigh Valley Tuesday night.
Win, lose or draw, the return of Utley will give a boost to one thing: tickets. With the traditionally terrible -- not this season -- Pirates in town and fireworks displays in the past, the Phillies could possibly use the Utley push to keep the heralded sellout streak at Citizens Bank Park alive.
Of course, any time someone returns, someone must go. This time struggling infielder Michael Martinez was the odd man out. The 29-year-old was shipped down to Lehigh Valley after batting just .133/.188/.200 with one home and four RBIs is 48 plate appearances for the Phils since he himself returned from injury earlier this month.