CLEARWATER, Fla. – Charlie Manuel was taking no chances. He walked around behind second base after the grounds crew dumped the tarp Tuesday afternoon. The squishing sound beneath his feet told him he didn’t want Chase Utley on the field.
Manuel scratched Utley from the lineup moments before the Phillies were about to play the New York Yankees. Kevin Frandsen started in place of Utley and continued to swing a hot bat with a double in the Phils’ 4-3 win.
Manuel’s abrupt decision to sit Utley caused some initial worry. Utley, of course, has battled knee problems the last two seasons and flareups can be unpredictable.
“What’s new?” Manuel said of the concern for Utley. “Chicken Little. The world is coming to an end. I see it all the time.”
Utley continues to feel good. He watched the game from the dugout. He will work out in Clearwater instead of traveling to Fort Myers to play the Twins on Wednesday.
• Kyle Kendrick allowed three hits and a run over two innings in his first start of the spring.
Kendrick comes to camp assured a rotation spot for the first time since 2008. He earned it by going 7-4 with a 3.20 ERA in 12 starts over the final two months after Joe Blanton was traded last season.
“I knew they were going to give me the chance and I had to prove I could be the guy,” Kendrick said. “I plan on continuing to do that this season. I’m hoping to build off last season, help us win some ballgames and get back to the postseason.”
• The Phillies had a big seventh inning Tuesday, and it might have been a glimpse at the future. Domonic Brown hit a mammoth home run to centerfield (see story), Cody Asche doubled and Tommy Joseph belted a two-run home run. The three-run inning rescued the Phils from a 3-1 deficit and propelled them to the win.
Brown, 25, is bidding for a spot in the Phils’ opening-day outfield. Asche, 22, and Joseph, 21, are considered the Phillies’ third baseman and catcher of the future, respectively.
All the hits in that inning came against Single A pitcher Zach Nuding.
• The Phillies travel to Fort Myers to face the Twins on Wednesday afternoon. Former Twin Ben Revere will make the trip to face his former mates. John Lannan makes his first start of the spring for the Phillies.
The Phillies tendered contracts to three arbitration-eligible players on Friday night and set another free.
Reliever Jeanmar Gomez and infielders Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis were tendered contracts for the 2017 season while outfielder Cody Asche was let go after four seasons with the club.
The Phillies signaled their intention to let Asche go when they designated him for assignment, a move that removed him from the 40-man roster, on Friday afternoon. The club had the option of trading Asche — and likely had discussions with other clubs — but ultimately decided to non-tender him before the 8 p.m. deadline. The move made Asche a free agent.
The Phils had removed Asche from the 40-man roster to clear a spot for David Rollins, a left-handed reliever who was claimed off waivers from Texas on Friday (see story).
Galvis and Hernandez, the team’s regular shortstop and second baseman, respectively, were certain to receive contracts for 2017. Gomez was less certain. He saved 37 games for the Phils in 2016, but struggled badly late in the season.
Phillies officials will try to negotiate 2017 salaries with all three players. If an agreement cannot be reached with a player, an arbitration hearing will be held later in the winter to determine that player’s salary for the coming season.
Gomez made $1.4 million in 2016, Galvis $2 million and Hernandez $525,000. According to mlbtraderumors.com, Gomez projects to make $4.6 million in arbitration, Galvis $4.4 million and Hernandez $2.5 million.
The Phillies' roster is full at 40.
Cody Asche's time with the Phillies has come to an end.
The Phillies claimed LHP David Rollins off waivers from the Texas Rangers on Friday. To make room on the 40-man roster, Asche was designated for assignment. The Phillies had until 8 p.m. on Friday to tender a contract to the outfielder, but they instead chose to free up the roster spot for Rollins.
Asche played four seasons with the Phillies from 2013-16 after he was drafted in the fourth round in 2011. The St. Charles, Mo. native had a .213/.284/.350 batting line this past season over 71 games. His best season with the Phillies came as their starting third baseman in 2014, hitting 10 home runs and driving home 46 runs in 121 games.
Rollins has been on four different rosters this offseason. He pitched 31 games in relief for the Seattle Mariners over the last two seasons, sporting a 7.60 ERA over 34 1/3 innings. He was claimed off waivers by the Chicago Cubs 15 days after the World Series and then subsequently claimed again by the Rangers.
Rollins was a 24th round draft pick by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2011 MLB Draft and was traded a year later to the Houston Astros. Prior to the 2015 season, the Mariners picked Rollins in the Rule 5 draft after the Astros chose not to protect him.