It’s the time of the year when high-ranking scouts pop into ballparks to check out players that might be available around the July trade deadline.
A Boston Red Sox scout was in town for the Phillies-Nationals series earlier this week. Jonathan Papelbon pitched three times in that series to mixed results. The Red Sox, of course, have closer issues. So do the Tigers, who had a scout in Denver while the Phils were there last weekend.
On Friday night, the night Chase Utley came off the disabled list, scouts from the New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants showed up at Citizens Bank Park. It was not known why they were in attendance, but both teams have suffered injuries in the infield and if those injuries don’t clear up, a player like Utley might be of interest.
The Yankees are hoping that first baseman Mark Teixeira makes it back quickly from his second right wrist injury of the season. Utley has played first base and could be attractive to the Yankees if Teixeira continues to have problems.
The Giants hope to get third baseman Pablo Sandoval back from the DL next week, but could look to trade for a second baseman and move Marco Scutaro to third base if Sandoval’s foot problem persists.
There are still almost six weeks before the trade deadline, and these are far off scenarios, but it’s never too early for potentially needy teams to start gathering intelligence.
The Phillies, of course, have not decided if they’re going to sell off talent. They are still hoping to make a run, but losses like Friday night’s -- Cole Hamels blew a 3-0 lead and the offense left 10 men on base in a 4-3 loss to the Mets (see game recap) -- make it more and more difficult to believe in this team, which has lost 9 of 13 to fall to 35-39.
Utley, 34, will be a free agent at season’s end. If the Phils don’t make that run in the next six weeks, he could be attractive to a contender.
Utley is focused solely on making that run.
“We have to stick with it,” he said after Friday night’s game. “We have a lot of games to play. If you ride the roller coaster, you can get in trouble. We just have to stay with it.”
Though he went 0 for 5 (with a couple of hard-hit balls) and left three runners on base, Utley came out of Friday night’s game feeling good. He missed a month with a strained right oblique muscle, an injury that can drive a hitter crazy if it’s not healed.
“I think I’ve overcome it at this point,” Utley said after the game. “It felt great. The last two games (at Reading on minor-league rehab) felt good and tonight it felt good.
“I had some opportunities to drive in runs and I wasn’t able to do that. But in the overall picture, I feel good and I feel like I can contribute.”
For now, any contributions that Utley makes will come in Philadelphia.