06/04/12 6:53 PM ET
Position not in question when Utley returns
By Jake Kaplan / MLB.com
But don't get too excited.
He played an extended spring training game on Monday in Clearwater, Fla. He went 3-for-4 with a double and a home run as the designated hitter. It's an important step, but tougher challenges lie ahead. The biggest, of course, is playing second base and how his chronically injured knees respond to it.
"How much he can play is kind of up to him, and if it flares up, that's baseball," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said before Monday's series opener against the Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park.
There has been plenty of discussion about Utley possibly changing positions in an effort to save his knees.
"Comes up every now and then, but it's nothing that we really hash out that we will do it," Manuel said.
It is an interesting conversation. Left field? First base? But don't bet on it happening this season.
"It's a tough thing to ask a guy," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said late last week when asked about Utley playing left field. "He's never done it. It's a tough message to send him. I know that."
In what way?
"To ask a guy to move a position?" Amaro said. "I'm not sure whether it does take pressure off [the knee] or not, whether it changes. But it's awfully tough after a guy who's never really played in the outfield -- he's been in the big leagues 10 years now playing second base and however long he played in college -- to all of a sudden say, 'Hey, he's going to play another position.' It's tough."
Manuel also weighed in on the discussion.
"If he's going to have pain, he can have pain at first base or left field or right field or wherever just like he can have it at second," he said. "I think getting him healthy and seeing what he can still do is the big thing. That's what I think. I think also, I think that we should sit him down and really ask him about that before we ever do that, that he's kind of earned that right to kind of have a say in those things."
Offensively speaking, it would serve the Phillies best if Utley played second base. Even if Utley performs like he did last season, he would be an upgrade over Freddy Galvis, Pete Orr and Mike Fontenot. They have a combined .283 on-base percentage, .417 slugging percentage and .700 OPS.
Utley had a .344 on-base percentage/.425 slugging percentage/.769 OPS line last season.
Phillies left fielders (.364/.414/.778) and first basemen (.342/.426/.769) have outperformed Utley's 2011 numbers.
Manuel sticking with Rollins in leadoff spot
PHILADELPHIA -- Manager Charlie Manuel has been asked about Jimmy Rollins' recent woes as the Phillies' leadoff hitter quite a few times in the past couple days. But despite the varying opinions of many others outside the organization, Manuel is sticking with his veteran shortstop in the top lineup slot.
Rollins is batting .237 with 26 runs and 13 RBIs this season. He's drawn 16 walks and struck out 35 times.
"Jimmy's gotten off to a slow start, by the way, almost every year since I've been here," Manuel said before Monday's game against the Dodgers. "Go check it out. I go through this every year. ... There might have been one year or two years or something that he got off to OK starts. But he's gotten off to some bad starts ever since I've been here."
Rollins, now in his 13th season with Philadelphia, has much better numbers in the second half. For his career, he has hit .263 with a .725 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) in the first half. In the second half, he owns a career .281 average with a .795 OPS.
Asked what he wanted to see out of Rollins the next few days, Manuel said: "I want to see the same thing I want to see every day. I want to see him get on base. I want to see him be more consistent in his hitting."
Manuel admitted he has thought about moving Juan Pierre to the leadoff spot, but he likes Pierre in the No. 2 hole.
"The type of hitter he is, he moves the ball around, he works the ball all over the field and things like that. He bunts good, and he can play situational baseball," Manuel said of Pierre. "So I like him in the two-hole."
Pierre, who is hitting .340 in a platoon role, was not in the lineup on Monday. With Clayton Kershaw starting for the Dodgers, Manuel opted to start John Mayberry Jr. in left field as Mayberry has better numbers against left-handed pitchers.
There is still no update on Roy Halladay, who sought a second opinion last week from Mets physician David Altcheck. The Phillies sent Altcheck a copy of Halladay's MRI results from 2009, when he accepted the trade to Philadelphia, and it's possible Altcheck might have just received the results on Monday.
Halladay is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right latissimus dorsi, and he's expected to be out six to eight weeks.
"I just read the reports every day," manager Charlie Manuel said. "Right now that's kind of out of my mind as far as how far it is until he's going to be able to get back and pitch. Sounds like its going to be a while."
Class A Clearwater third baseman Cody Asche was named the Phillies Minor League Player of the Month after batting .363 with 41 hits in 27 games in May. Jesse Biddle, the Phillies' first-round Draft pick in 2010, was the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Month after posting a 2-0 record with a 1.36 ERA in sixth starts in May. Biddle is ranked the second-best prospect in the organization by Baseball America.
Believe it or not, Monday's game marks the first time former Phillies and current Dodgers outfielder Bobby Abreu has played against the Phillies in Philadelphia since May 18, 1997, when he was a member of the Astros. Starting in '98, Abreu spent 8 1/2 seasons with Philadelphia before he was traded to the Yankees in July 2006.
Jake Kaplan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.