|Broken hand may not cost All-Star Utley as much time as originally feared|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 27 July 2007 13:16|
The All-Star second baseman could be back in only three weeks, encouraging news for a team that sorely needs one of their top run producers as it chases New York in the NL East race.
``It's going to be tougher,'' said NL MVP Ryan Howard. ``That's a big bat out of the lineup.''
Utley had a pin inserted into his hand to stabilize a broken right ring finger during surgery Friday and was placed on the 15-day disabled list. He was struck by a pitch from Washington's John Lannan in the fifth inning of the pitcher's major league debut on Thursday.
Utley is batting .336 with 41 doubles, 17 home runs and 82 RBIs this season.
``That's a big blow to us,'' Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
The Phillies opened a three-game series against the Pirates trailing the Mets by five games. They also played without injured center fielder Aaron Rowand (shoulder). Closer Brett Myers was activated off the disabled list and available to pitch for the first time since late May.
The Phillies originally thought Utley could be sidelined much longer - perhaps four-to-six weeks - but team doctor Michael Ciccotti said the gritty star might return as early as ``three or four weeks.''
With only light-hitting Abraham Nunez available on the roster to play second base, the Phillies acted quickly in finding Utley's replacement, acquiring Tadahito Iguchi from the Chicago White Sox for minor league pitcher Michael Dubee.
``I really wanted to stay here in Chicago,'' Iguchi said through a translator. ``I had no idea something like this was going to happen. On the other hand, it's a great feeling there is a team that has a need for me and I am really honored.''
Utley finished Thursday's game, going 2-for-4, but X-rays later revealed a break in the fourth metacarpal. Utley said Thursday he didn't expect to miss a month.
``I think it will be sooner than that,'' he said.
Utley is tied for the league lead in hits (134) and extra-base hits (61), second in total bases (232) and third in RBIs. He has been hit a major league-high 17 times, after getting plunked 14 times last season.
Nunez was in the lineup in place of Utley on Friday night against Pittsburgh, batting eighth. Iguchi will likely take over once he joins the team Saturday. Nunez had been splitting time at third base with Greg Dobbs and Wes Helms.
Iguchi is batting .251 this season with 17 doubles, four triples, six home runs and 31 RBIs in 90 games with the White Sox. He is a career .273 hitter with 39 home runs, 169 RBIs and 216 runs scored in three seasons with the White Sox.
Phillies assistant general manager Mike Arbuckle called Iguchi ``the most attractive'' second baseman available on the trade market. Arbuckle insisted the Phillies could still make the playoffs, even without Utley's bat keying an offense that leads the NL in runs scored.
``We still think we're in this thing,'' Arbuckle said.
They hope Rowand comes back much sooner. Rowand said he ``tweaked'' his left shoulder while playing tag with neighborhood kids after Thursday's game, and was day to day.
Rowand felt something wrong when he swiped at one of the kids.
``I smacked him on the butt,'' he said. ``I caught it on the wrong angle.''
Rowand has been on a hot streak, providing needed protection in the five spot behind Howard. Rowand was batting .412 in his last 16 games and led all of baseball with 15 doubles this month.
He said his shoulder was stiff when he woke up and tender after taking some swings in the cage. Rowand hurt his left shoulder once before in a dirt bike accident in 2002.
``Losing Chase is really the big thing,'' Rowand said.
Philadelphia did get some good news with the return of opening day starter-turned-reliever Myers (1-2, 5.50 ERA, six saves) from the disabled list. Myers hasn't pitched for the Phillies since he strained his right shoulder in late May and pitched 3 1-3 scoreless innings in three rehab outings for Class-A Clearwater.
``I'm anxious to pitch, that's it,'' Myers said.
Myers said he felt fine and was ready to pitch.
Manuel said there was a chance Myers could immediately pitch in save situations.
The Phillies also purchased the contract of utility player Joe Thurston from Triple-A Ottawa. Thurston hit a combined .278 with three home runs and 44 RBIs in 105 games in two levels in the minor leagues this season.
To make room on the 40-man roster, infielder Danny Sandoval was designated for assignment. The Phillies also optioned lefty reliever Mike Zagurski (1-0, 4.58) to Ottawa.
Dubee is the son of Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee.