Utley thrilled to return to All-Star Game as starter
After years of knee problems, Phillies second baseman back in Midsummer Classic
MINNEAPOLIS -- Chase Utley has long been one of baseball's most underrated players.
He was one of baseball's best players from 2005 to 2010, garnering Most Valuable Player votes each season and being named an All-Star five straight years from 2006-10, but never quite got the credit he deserved. He's also been plagued by injuries in recent years, as he hasn't played more than 140 games since 2009.
Utley, though, has regained his form over the last two years and was rewarded by being voted in by the fans as the starting second baseman for the Phillies in the All-Star Game on Tuesday night at Target Field.
Utley, who will start at second base and bat seventh for the National League, said his ability to overcome his chronic knee problems makes this one much sweeter, as it's his first Midsummer Classic since 2010.
"This is a special one for me personally," Utley said. "I was able to partake a few years back, but ran into some injuries. I feel like I've overcome a lot to get back to this point in my career. I'm excited to be a part of this and represent the Phillies and be in the starting lineup representing the National League."
So while Utley has been going through a career resurgence, the Phillies have struggled in recent years. They haven't finished above .500 since winning the NL East in 2011.
They also enter the All-Star break 11 games under .500 at 42-53, and trail the division-leading Nationals by 10 games.
It's led to widespread trade rumors about Phillies veterans such as Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett, Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick, Jonathan Papelbon, Ryan Howard, Marlon Byrd and Utley.
But Utley said he's not ready to give up on the season just yet, as he believes the Phillies have simply been playing under their true capabilities.
"I think we're better than our standings dictate," Utley said. "Offensively, we haven't fully clicked. We've had some good streaks, but too many bad streaks. Pitching-wise, I think we've done a pretty good job. Our bullpen has come around. We're starting to get some confidence, which is important. So now it's about putting it all together."
Utley, though, is well-aware that if the Phillies don't turn it around in a hurry after the break, they'll be sellers at the July 31 Trade Deadline.
But Utley, who has a no-trade clause because he possesses 10-and-5 rights having played his entire 12-year career in Philadelphia, made it clear he prefers to stay with the Phillies.
"I've talked to guys who played for the Phillies and have gone on to other organizations and the grass isn't always greener on the other side," Utley said. "I've picked some brains over the past few years. I just love Philadelphia. I love playing at Citizens Bank Park. And I love playing in front of my fans. There's no better place to play. Obviously, winning is important and I'd like to do that in Philadelphia."
Utley, 35, also added he doesn't believe he'll be dealt before the Trade Deadline. He's still under contract through next season, including options all the way through 2018.
"If I was a betting man, I'd probably say there would be no change," Utley said.
But Utley also said he prefers to be on a winning team and doesn't want to be part of a rebuilding effort. He's still holding out hope the Phillies can return to contending in the near future and that he can be a part of it.
"Last year, before I signed, I was told we're going to continue to try to contend," Utley said. "I feel like we're doing that this year, but we're just not playing as well as we should be playing. I guess we'll have to see how the chips will unfold."