The impact Utley has on the Phils is unmeasurable. Last season the Phillies played 46 games without Utley, ironically still accumulating the best record in all of baseball. Imagine if he did play in those 46 games what their record would have been.
When Utley was announced in the starting lineup after his 46-game hiatus against the Cincinnati Reds on May 23, the home crowd at Citizens Bank Park was one of the loudest it had been all season, and rightfully so.
Their hero was back in action.
So how exactly can the man return to his throne as the king of middle infielders? Rest.
Utley is used to playing every day, and when he was younger he would beg Charlie Manuel to put him in the lineup all the time. Now as he is getting older, wiser and suffering from serious health problems, the second baseman needs to know when to take a break. The 162-game season is a marathon, not a sprint, and the Phils need him to be in Usain Bolt form come October.
However, Utley's production has been on a severe decline since 2007, causing his batting average and slugging percentage to drop every season. Also, he has spent more time on the disabled list in the past two years than games played.
"I’m always looking for ways to improve. I haven’t come to the conclusion that I need to change things. I think what I’m doing now is putting me on track to contribute like I have in the past," he said.
Utley was sidelined last year with patellar tendinitis in the knee, bone inflammation and chondromalacia, which is pain due to irritation under the kneecap.
He said he is feeling better than he did at spring training last year.
It feels significantly better. Last year it was very uncomfortable, especially the first week. Right now, I think I’m in a good place. The goal for me is to kind of stay in the same place and improve in small increments and not try to irritate it to the point where I’d have to slow down.
For the Phillies fans' sake, hope he can keep the pedal to the metal and bring home another ring in the 2012 season.