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
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.