Chase Utley's Return Should Make Everyone Better, Including Charlie Manuel

Chase Utley's Return Should Make Everyone Better, Including Charlie Manuel

As happy as Phillies fans are to see Chase Utley's name on the lineup card this evening, Charlie Manuel was just as happy to write it there.

"Felt good to put Chase's name in there," Manuel said. "I've been looking forward to the day he comes back and plays."

In fact, Chase Utley's mere presence makes Manuel a better manager by default.

"I feel like I got a little bit better, yeah," Manuel said with a smile.

Much of the talk before this evening's game was around how Utley will adjust to the stresses of playing in Major League games. This isn't Clearwater. These games count in the Phillies quest to return to the World Series.

Before tonight's game, Chase talked about what it was like being away from his teammates and watching this Phillies offense struggle as of late.

"It's pretty frustrating not to be able to go out and
help your team win, but I'm proud of my teammates," Utley said. "They've done an outstanding job these first two months. The pitching staff has
been outstanding. I know there's been a lot of negative talk recently on how
our offense has been struggling, but that's why we play for six months. It's an
up-and-down game."

Utley and Manuel both said that communication between the two will be key to Chase staying healthy and contributing on a regular basis. Utley says he now realizes he'll need to take occasional off-days to stay healthy longer term.

"Charlie and I will talk on a daily basis and see
where we're at every single day, but I definitely want to be out there,"
Utley said. "I think I know my body better than anybody else. I know what
I can deal with and I know what I can't deal with. I've had to show a little patience throughout this whole process, which I think has been beneficial."

Charlie believes Utley's communication will be candid, knowing No. 26 has to put the team first.

"I think he's going to be very honest with me," Manuel said. "I've got a schedule but I'm not going to show it to you."

It's in Charlie's desk if you were wondering.

Manuel once again spoke glowingly about Utley's quiet leadership, noting his telepathic-like looks. Seriously. Manuel also said that it won't be Utley's production alone that impacts his club.

"I think he definitely has an impact on our lineup, it's definitely gonna help us as far as the way we think," Manuel said. "He's a leader on our team. He's what I like to call a silent leader. He don't have to say nothing. He's probably one of the most respected players I've been around, someone like a Harmon Killebrew, somebody like that. He can just look at you, guys know him, and they know what he's thinking. That's one of the best leaders a person can be. They carry a lot of respect for him."

"His attitude and what he brings is very special to us."

Hopefully, for the sanity of the fans, he'll bring his bat too.

*

Tonight's pitching matchup puts Cole Hamels (5-2, 2.92) up against right-hander Bronson Arroyo (3-4, 4.11) for the Reds. You can see a bit more on the Phillies lineup this evening here.

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.  

Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.

Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.

Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.

The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.

The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).

The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).

Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy.

The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.

Pete Mackanin will push to add hitter in meeting with front-office brass Friday

Pete Mackanin will push to add hitter in meeting with front-office brass Friday

ATLANTA — The Phillies entered Tuesday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves — No. 157 of 162 — ranked last in the majors in runs scored (591) and were hanging out near the bottom in a slew of other important offensive categories.
 
The stat sheet says the Phillies need more offense.
 
So does the manager.
 
Pete Mackanin plans to make his case for adding a bat this winter — the best fit would be in the outfield — in an end-of-season meeting with the front office Friday at Citizens Bank Park.
 
“Basically, having talked to the rest of the coaching staff, we’re all pretty much in agreement with what our needs are,” Mackanin said Tuesday afternoon. “I’m anxious to hear from (general manager) Matt Klentak and from (president) Andy MacPhail and if there’s an owner there. We’d like to hear what they have to say. We’re pretty much in agreement on a lot of what we need.
 
“I, for one, think we need at least one hitter that gives you quality at-bats.”
 
There could be hurdles in adding a bat. Money is not one of them. All of the team’s big contracts will be gone when Ryan Howard rides off into the sunset on Sunday. The team that spent over a half-billion in salaries from 2012 to 2014 (and missed the playoffs each time) has plenty of money and has vowed to spend it in due time. But that time might not arrive until team leaders believe the club has built a nucleus that would benefit from the signing of a "finishing" talent or two. The team is committed to building that nucleus from within, and there lies the potential hurdle in adding the difference-making bat that Mackanin craves. Building from within requires eventually giving players from the system an opportunity to prove themselves and grow at the major-league level. The front office, still very much committed to a rebuild, will be cognizant of blocking those players (the list includes Roman Quinn, Nick Williams, Dylan Cozens and others) and their opportunities. Klentak has said as much on several occasions this year.
 
Even Mackanin acknowledged that the situation is a Catch-22.
 
“I know I don’t want to block a prospect that has a chance to be a big part of it,” he said.
 
“But at the same time, I think by having one guy in the middle of the lineup or somewhere in the lineup that can take a little pressure off (Maikel) Franco and (Odubel) Herrera and the rest of them could do wonders. You look at when (Matt) Kemp joined the Braves. They all went off. They’re all hitting. They’ve scored more runs than anybody, I think, since the All-Star break. Last year, with (Yoenis) Cespedes, he joined the Mets and all of a sudden they all started hitting.
 
“I will give those examples. I feel that’s important.”
 
A number of outfield bats will be on the free-agent market this winter. Cespedes could be there if he opts out of his contract with the Mets, but he’s not likely to be interested in joining a rebuilding team and the Phillies are unlikely to want the long-term commitment a player like that would require. Dexter Fowler and Matt Holliday could be free agents if their options for 2017 are not exercised. Ian Desmond will be out there, but the Rangers will probably look to retain him. Jose Bautista, Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss and Colby Rasmus will also be out there. Martin Prado is the type of “professional hitter” that would appeal to Mackanin, but he agreed to a three-year contract extension with the Miami Marlins on Tuesday.