Utley good, defense bad in Phillies’ first spring game

Utley good, defense bad in Phillies’ first spring game

February 23, 2013, 7:00 pm

Spring Training TV Schedule

Feb. 25, Tigers at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN
Feb. 26, Yankees at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN
Feb. 28, Braves at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN
Mar. 3, Blue Jays at Phillies, 1 p.m., CSN
Mar. 5, World Baseball Classic, 1 p.m., CSN
Mar. 6, Nationals at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN
Mar. 7, Twins at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN
Mar. 12, Tigers at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN
Mar. 14 Pirates at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN
Mar. 17 Orioles at Phillies, 1 p.m., CSN
Mar. 19, Yankees at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN
Mar. 22, Braves at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN
Mar. 26 Rays at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN
Mar. 28 Blue Jays at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN
Mar. 29 Blue Jays at Phillies, 7 p.m., TCN

CLEARWATER, Fla. – The good news from the Phillies’ first Grapefruit League game:

Cole Hamels looked healthy and sharp (see story), and so did Chase Utley.

The bad news: The Phillies played sloppy defense, making four errors, in an 8-3 loss to Houston.

Defense is being stressed in this camp because it was a serious issue as the Phils slipped to 15th in the majors in fielding percentage last season after ranking No. 1 in 2011.

Catcher Erik Kratz made a throwing error. Infielder Michael Martinez and outfielders Ben Revere and Darin Ruf also made errors.

Ruf, making the conversion from first base to left field, failed to field a base hit cleanly and that allowed a runner to move up.

Miscues are magnified early. This was the first game, hardly a body of work, but Manuel still wants to see better defense. He was disappointed in it Saturday.

“Hopefully we kind of got a lot of that out of the way,” he said. “That was one of those days. That’s what we talked about, that’s why we’ve been working a lot on our defense. We still got a long way to go and today was a good example of it.”

The Phillies will be patient with Ruf, especially if he hits. He was 0 for 3 in the game.

“I think Darin is going to make some mistakes,” Manuel said. “Playing down here in spring training is going to help him. I didn’t expect him to go out there and make great catches or catch every ball. He hasn’t played much out there and he’s going to make mistakes.”

Utley looks good
Utley played three innings in his first spring training game since 2010. He lashed a fastball up the middle for a hit and ran from first to third like a man without knee problems.

“It’s been a few years since I played a spring-training game on that field,” Utley said. “It was exciting. It was a good first step.

“Things are progressing well. It was good to be out there with the guys and the fans. The fans were great.”

Utley has not encountered any of the start-up problems that he had with his knees last spring.

“It sounds really simple, but I just didn't stop playing baseball this winter,” he said. “So far, that has worked. Last year, I just couldn’t get over the hump. Now I can use spring training to become a better baseball player.”

On Sunday
The Phils travel to Lakeland to play the Tigers. Roy Halladay starts against Justin Verlander in a matchup of former Cy Young winners.

Utley will not make the trip as team officials monitor his playing time. He won’t make long spring trips but will get enough at-bats to be ready for the season, Manuel said.

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