PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – When Jimmy Rollins said “who cares?” about Spring Training statistics, perhaps he was talking about Chase Utley.
Utley’s preseason stats were not impressive, but has come out on fire to start the season, as the Phillies ended their opening road trip 3-3. Utley is hitting .458, with an OPS of 1.369, along with two home runs and six RBIs.
“Doesn’t he look good? Yeah, and you know what, right on time. He went about his business very well in Spring Training,” manager Ryne Sandberg told 94WIP’s Angelo Cataldi and The Morning Team on Monday. “He conditioned himself well as we did the whole camp. Like I said at the start of the season before we even played a regular season game, he barreled up his last nine or 10 balls in Spring Training, drove them to the well or the guys made great catches. They were possible doubles, just missed a couple of home runs, and then once the season starts he was right and ready to go. He’s just having quality at bats and doing a good job. It’s good to see.”
“I just put his name in the lineup and I just watch him play, and he just sets a good tone for the team as far as style of play.”
One player’s start who has been uneven has been closer Jonathan Papelbon, who blew an early-season save against the Rangers. After the game, Papelbon questioned the infield’s positioning.
“We were between the three depth, which is inside of a double play depth, we were in between a three depth and an in-field in because the runner [Leonys] Martin is so quick, and we had already seen that throughout the series, that he’s so quick at first base that to have any chance at a double play it would have to be a hard hit ball and our infield would have to be cheating towards the inside part of the infield. That was the main thing,” Sandberg said. “I spoke with him [Papelbon], I don’t know if he was questioning it. He wanted to get the ground ball, the ball was up the middle. It wasn’t what he meant is what I got from it and there’s no problem there. That was all taken care of, talked about. He spoke, but it didn’t come out the way that he wanted too.”
Papelbon’s velocity has been down this year, and many have suggested he’ll have to learn to concentrate more on location, rather than just blowing the ball by hitters.
“Right now he needs to pitch a little bit different, like he did the game in Chicago,” Sandberg said. “He needs to go with his breaking stuff and his split, his split-finger change-up and then mix in his fastball and spot his fastball. That’s what he has to do right now, until he—we’ll see if he build some arm strength and see if he adds some velocity to his fastball as we go here. So, the bottom line is he is healthy and he was healthy all Spring, but he is throwing 91-92 miles per hour right now, mainly 91. He needs to pitch a little backwards and pitch a little different and really hit his spots as he goes along with his velocity.”