Utley’s bat heating up as opening day approaches

Utley’s bat heating up as opening day approaches
March 24, 2013, 6:00 pm
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CLEARWATER, Fla. – A week ago, they rolled out the batting cage at Bright House Field so Chase Utley could take a postgame round of batting practice.

Utley hit and hit and hit.

For 40 minutes.

Those extra swings worked.

Utley has eight hits, including three homers, in his last four games. He had three of the Phillies’ seven hits in Sunday’s 7-6 loss to the Red Sox. Utley and Ryan Howard had back-to-back homers in the eighth inning. Utley also homered twice on Saturday.

Most importantly, Utley’s knees are responding well and allowing him to be on the field. He has played back-to-back days and will play Monday and Tuesday as he gears up for opening day.

• Cliff Lee gave up nine hits over 5 1/3 innings. He allowed six runs, two of which were unearned, walked none and struck out seven.

Lee hasn’t had a great spring – 5.94 ERA – but he’s pleased with the way he’s throwing the ball and says he’s ready for the regular season. He will make his final tune-up start Friday in Philadelphia.

• The Phillies made a minor-league trade, sending right-handed pitcher Julio Rodriguez to Baltimore in exchange for outfielder Ronnie Welty.

Welty, 25, has never played above Double A.

Rodriguez, 22, went 16-7 with a 2.76 ERA at Single A Clearwater in 2011. He was 7-7 with a 4.23 ERA in 29 games (22 starts) at Double A last season.

Despite pitching in Major League Baseball’s Futures Game last summer, Rodriguez was never considered a top prospect.

Rodriguez is the latest member of the Phillies’ pitching-rich 2008 draft to be traded. This offseason, the Phils dealt Vance Worley (third round) and Trevor May (fourth round) for Ben Revere. Jarred Cosart (38th round) went to Houston in the Hunter Pence deal in July 2011. Jason Knapp (second round) went to Cleveland in the Cliff Lee deal in July 2009. Rodriguez was an eighth-round pick.

Michael Schwimer, since traded to Toronto, Mike Stutes, B.J. Rosenberg and Jonathan Pettibone were also picked in the 2008 draft by the Phils.

• The Phils travel to nearby Dunedin to play the Blue Jays on Monday afternoon. John Lannan makes the start. Josh Johnson is scheduled to start for Toronto.

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