Phillies

Chase Utley says rehab outing 'went really well'

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Chase Utley says rehab outing 'went really well'

READING, Pa. — It doesn’t look like much in the box score, but for Chase Utley, Wednesday night’s rehab outing for Double A Reading at First Energy Stadium was exactly what he needed.

On the disabled list since May 20 with a strained oblique muscle, Utley cut loose for the first time in nearly a month. The All-Star second baseman played eight innings at second base, had four plate appearances and even got a chance to run the bases even though he went 0 for 4 with three fly outs.

“I could have slid, dove -- I was all in,” Utley said.

“It went well. I played eight innings, got four at-bats and I played with no reservations, which is a good feeling to have. Initially I was scheduled to play seven, but I wanted to get that extra at-bat, so I played an extra inning on defense and I thought it went really well.”

Utley admitted his timing was a little off when at the plate, but the rust wasn’t evident in his swing. As quick and smooth as ever, Utley saw 11 pitches in his four plate appearances and hit the ball solidly.

In the first inning, Utley hit a 1-1 pitch to the warning track in deep left-center. He hit a 2-0 pitch to short center for the third out in the third inning and grounded into a fielder’s choice on a 1-1 pitch in the fifth.

With two outs, Utley went from first to third on Jim Murphy’s looping single to short right field. He took a big turn around third base and appeared ready to head to the plate when Reading’s manager Dusty Wathan threw up the stop sign.

Imagine the explanation from Wathan if Utley had to barrel over the catcher on a play at the plate.

Utley’s night ended in the eighth when he led off the inning with a fly out to right field on a 0-1 pitch.

It was an oh-fer, but it felt pretty good to Utley.

“I felt like I was swinging 100 percent. Obviously, I haven’t seen live pitching in a month. My timing was a little off, but overall it went pretty well,” said Utley, noting that he has been swinging a bat and taking batting practice since Sunday. “The last four or five days I’ve been letting go pretty good and not holding back.”

So is Utley ready to return to the lineup for the Phillies? Probably. However, in a recent update about his injury, Utley said he wanted to take his time and make sure he was healthy before he got back to action.

Though Utley did not commit to another rehab outing for Reading on Thursday night, it seems more than likely that he will suit up in the minors for one more game before returning to the Phillies.

“I don’t [know]. I’ll talk to Charlie (Manuel) and to Ruben (Amaro) and kind of put a game plan together and go from there,” Utley said about his impending return to the big leagues. “But most importantly, feeling good and not holding back was something I wanted to accomplish and I feel pretty good about that.”

Utley seemed downright giddy about playing an actual baseball game for a change. After all, Utley has missed 29 games already this season and 185 games in the last three years.

Headed into this season, Utley appeared in just 62 percent of the Phillies’ regular-season games. So, yes, eight innings at Reading sure beats watching from the dugout and doing strengthen exercises for yet another injury.

“It was nice facing someone other than a BP pitcher,” Utley said. “Their guy tonight [Portland right-hander Anthony Ranaudo] was pretty good. It was good to see a pitcher with some velocity and a breaking ball.”

There’s something else, too. In 73 games this season, the Phillies have had their regular starting eight in the lineup for just five games. With catcher Carlos Ruiz returning this week from a hamstring injury, Utley is the lone holdover.

When Utley returns?

“It means we’re back,” he said.

Gabe Kapler names Jim Gott Phillies' bullpen coach

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Gabe Kapler names Jim Gott Phillies' bullpen coach

Gabe Kapler on Friday added to his coaching staff by naming Jim Gott the Phillies' bullpen coach.

Gott was the minor-league pitching coordinator for the Angels the last five seasons and the pitching coach for the Arizona League Angels the three years prior to that role.

He played for the Blue Jays, Giants, Pirates and Dodgers over 14 major-league seasons as a starter and reliever. Gott, now 58 years old, compiled a 3.87 ERA while making 96 starts and converting 91 saves.

Kapler and the Phillies still need to name a pitching coach and first-base coach. Last week, they named Dusty Wathan third-base coach and hired John Mallee as hitting coach, while retaining Rick Kranitz, who was the assistant pitching coach last season (see story). He could fill the main pitching coach vacancy, although his role is currently to be determined.

In 2017, Bob McClure served the Phillies as pitching coach and Mickey Morandini was first-base coach.

MLB Notes: Astros' Jose Altuve, Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton claim MVP awards

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MLB Notes: Astros' Jose Altuve, Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton claim MVP awards

Houston Astros dynamo Jose Altuve has won the American League MVP award, towering over New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge by a wide margin.

The 5-foot-6 Altuve drew 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Altuve batted a major league-best .346. He hit 24 home runs with 81 RBIs, scored 112 times, stole 32 bases and showed a sharp glove at second base.

The 6-foot-7 Judge won the AL Rookie of the Year award Monday. He set a rookie record with 52 home runs.

Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians finished third. The award was announced Thursday.

Altuve helped lead the Astros to their first World Series championship. Voting for these honors was completed before the postseason began.

Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton won the NL MVP award, barely edging Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds.

In the closest MVP vote since 1979, Stanton became only the sixth player to win from a losing team. Stanton led the big leagues with 59 home runs and 132 RBIs (see full story).

MLB: Manfred says pace changes will happen with or without union
Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

There are ongoing talks for a new posting system with Japan to replace the deal that expired Nov. 1, one that would allow star Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani to leave the Pacific League's Nippon Ham Fighters to sign with a big league team (see full story).

Mariners: Team makes trade, raises available money for Japan's Otani​
The Seattle Mariners have gained more flexibility if they want to try to sign star Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani.

They acquired an additional $500,000 for their international signing bonus pool from the Chicago White Sox in a trade for Brazilian right-hander Thyago Vieira.

Otani, a 23-year-old right-hander, would be limited to a minor league contract with a signing bonus under Major League Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement. The trade announced Thursday increases the Mariners' available money for a signing bonus to $1,557,500. Seattle has spent $3,942,500 on bonuses in the signing year that started July 2 from a pool that rose to $5.5 million with the trade.

The 24-year-old Vieira made his major league debut with a scoreless inning against Baltimore on Aug. 14, his only big league appearance. He was 2-3 with two saves and a 3.72 ERA in 29 games this year for Double-A Arkansas and 0-1 with two saves and a 4.58 ERA in 12 games for Triple-A Tacoma.

Chicago is restricted to a maximum $300,000 signing bonus because it exceeded its pool in a previous year under the old labor contract.