|All-Star Utley could return to Phillies lineup next week|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 21 August 2007 13:26|
``Put me in the lineup!'' the All-Star second baseman shouted from down the clubhouse.
``Yeah, he's in the lineup,'' Manuel chuckled. ``He's hitting 10th.''
The Phillies might not have to wait much longer for Utley to rejoin the team as they make a push in the NL East. Utley, batting .336 with 17 homers and 82 RBIs, took some practice cuts before Tuesday's game against Los Angeles for the first time since his right hand was struck by a pitch nearly a month ago.
``I swung pretty hard and I feel fine,'' Utley said. ``We'll see how it feels tomorrow. If it feels the same tomorrow, we'll try again with more swings, harder swings.''
The Phillies, who opened a 10-game homestand trailing San Diego by only one game in the wild-card race, hope Utley can return for next week's series against the Mets. Utley said he was going ``stir crazy'' watching the Phillies drop two of three at Pittsburgh.
Utley split about 50-60 swings between his regular bat and a fungo bat, and hoped to take batting practice some time this week. Utley wore protective padding under his batting glove.
``My hands were a little weaker than it was prior to the injury, but it wasn't that bad,'' he said.
Utley was injured when he was hit by Washington's John Lannan in the fifth inning of a 7-6 loss on July 26. Utley stayed in the game, going 2-for-4 with an RBI, but had surgery the next day to put a pin in the fourth metacarpal of his right hand. He was replaced in the lineup by Tadahito Iguchi, who was acquired from the Chicago White Sox shortly after Utley went down.
While the Phillies still lead the National League in runs scored, they sorely need one of their top run producers as they chase their first playoff appearance since 1993. First baseman Ryan Howard leads the NL in RBIs (98) entering Tuesday, but was in a 3-for-24 slump.
``He's not seeing the ball good,'' Manuel said. ``I don't plan on giving him any rest. He's going to play through it.''