The moments Chase Utley realized Roy Halladay's eminence

The moments Chase Utley realized Roy Halladay's eminence

Chase Utley seldom looks out of place on a baseball field.

He is a preparation junkie, always in tip-top shape and runs out every play like it's his last.

Then he met the surgeon on the mound.

Roy Halladay, a competitor of Utley's ilk, was his match.

In his career, "The Man" never logged an official at-bat against "Doc" — and for that, he considers himself fortunate.

However ...

"I believe I faced him in spring training and he made me look like a little leaguer out there," Utley said Wednesday on NBC Sports Philadelphia's Philly Sports Talk. "And I think I might have faced him in the All-Star Game (2009), and I remember thinking, 'OK, I've heard a lot about him, first pitch I see that's going to be a strike, I'm going to try to put it in play.' I did and I was out. He was a man among boys out there. He truly was."

Utley and Halladay, astoundingly alike in their baseball makeup and mindset, shared an incredible appreciation for one another, especially after they became teammates in 2010.

Over the past two days, Utley has found himself sharing that appreciation in the wake of Halladay's death on Tuesday, a result of a tragic plane crash.

"Obviously this is terrible, my heart goes out to Brandy and his two boys (Ryan and Braden)," Utley said. "I know he was really involved in their athletic abilities. I did a camp for them, this was a few years ago, and he was a coach, he had all the gear on, and he was really into it. Words can't really describe … it's just not a good thing. But I think it's important to reflect on all the positive things that he not only did for Major League Baseball, but for the Phillies and his teammates. He really made his teammates better."

Utley was made better by Halladay as the two pushed each other with their drive to be better than the day before. Utley offered a glimpse inside his own routine for spring training.

And the day someone actually beat him to the ballpark.

It was Halladay at 5:45 a.m.

"I heard a lot of good things about Roy prior to actually meeting him. Going back to the Instagram post that I put out [Tuesday], I thought I was a guy that got to the ballpark early to get a bunch of work done before the day really started," Utley said. "I walked in, I think I was with Brian Schneider at the time, and Roy was sitting there in his workout gear, almost finished with breakfast, he was soaking wet. I assumed he had worked out, but I made a joke, 'Hey, man, was it raining when you walked into the ballpark?' He kind of looked at me, laughed [and said], 'No, I just finished my workout.' That's something that I'll never forget about him. Right then and there, I knew what he was all about — all the rumors, all the stories that I heard about him prior to that, I knew they were all real."

Halladay captured the hearts of Philadelphia. A blue-collar city could tip its cap to a player with such dedication and determination.

Utley said those traits resonated with his teammates, as well.

"He was obviously an important part of our ballclub and he rubbed guys the right way, he made guys around him better, he was the best pitcher in all of baseball," Utley said. "Our pitching staff, even our position players, kind of watched what he did in between starts and I think a lot of them implemented that into what they did on a daily basis. Guys gravitated towards him.

"What he did, in the era that he did it, is truly remarkable. There's a reason he was so good. Obviously everyone is talking about how hard he worked between starts, and it was no joke. He was getting after it and it motivated me, it motivated a lot of guys to try to become the best player you could be. And he got the most out of everything.

"He was a once-in-a-lifetime player to be honest with you."

Utley got a taste of it one steamy day in Chicago's Friendly Confines, where he was baptized with Halladay's unmatched intensity.

"I remember a game we were playing in Wrigley Field. And for some reason that day, it felt like it was 1,000 degrees on the field. There was no breeze, it was probably 105 degrees, but the heat index must have been much higher," Utley said. "And he was working. As we all know, he was working hard out on the mound.

"I remember thinking, 'OK, he's working hard, it's super hot out here, I'm going to go to the mound and maybe give him a breather.' So I go to the mound, I think I pretend like I'm tying my shoes and he looked at me with like this evil look. I knew right then and there, he didn't need a break, he didn't need to take any time off. He wanted to get back to pitching, so I learned my lesson at that point to not bother him when he's doing his thing on the mound."

That's because Halladay was as fierce as any when it came to winning. Utley mentioned the decisive Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals. Halladay allowed a leadoff triple to Rafael Furcal, who a moment later scored what turned out to be the game's only run. Halladay finished with eight innings of one-run ball and seven strikeouts. The Phillies lost, 1-0, and the 102-win season was over way too early.

Still, Utley looks back on that night in amazement of Halladay.

"You knew looking into his eyes after they scored that one run, that they were not going to score another run," Utley said. "And they didn't. Unfortunately we were not able to squeeze a run across, but I remember him just sitting in the locker room after the game, as we all were disappointed. At that point, I just said, 'Doc, you did everything you could do, you need to hold your head high.' I think that picked him up a little bit, but he was all about winning, that's what he wanted to do on a daily basis."

He accomplished plenty in Philadelphia. The perfect game, the postseason no-hitter, the 2010 NL Cy Young, the franchise-record 102 victories.

All with class.

"One thing that I took from him was obviously he was a great pitcher, he had so much success with the Phillies, but after every game he pitched well, which was pretty much the majority of all of them, he would always kind of deflect the attention to somebody else as far as, 'Chooch (Carlos Ruiz) called a great game, Ryan Howard had the big home run, Jayson Werth made a great play in the outfield,'" Utley said. "That right there showed me what kind of person he was — he wasn't about himself, he was about the team and he was definitely all about winning."

And, he somehow made a guy like Utley want to work even harder.

Phillies' ramped-up rebuild demands starting-pitching upgrade

Phillies' ramped-up rebuild demands starting-pitching upgrade

Let the record show that on a snowy Friday afternoon 10 days before Christmas 2017, the Phillies ramped up their rebuild.


What other conclusion can be drawn after the club went out and signed Carlos Santana, one of the best offensive players on the free-agent market? With the signing, confirmed by multiple baseball sources, general manager Matt Klentak has attached a new level of importance to the 2018 season.

Just a couple of days ago at the winter meetings in Orlando, Klentak spoke of how 2018 was going to be a time to "find out" more about the team's young core of players. Who would continue to take a step forward? Who would fall by the wayside?

But now that Santana is here, 2018 doesn't feel like it's just a find-out season. It feels like a season in which the Phillies can continue to find out about players — separate the studs from the duds — and also start nibbling around that second National League wild-card spot.

Sure, a lot has to go right for that to happen.

And one of the things that has to go right is Klentak has to land a starting pitcher to slot in around Aaron Nola and the rest of the staff, which has the look of a bunch of No. 4 and No. 5 starters — until someone steps forward.

Santana's deal is for three years and $60 million, according to sources. Three years is a nice get — i.e., it's not cripplingly long — for a 32-year-old (in April) who hits for power, produces runs and does what Klentak likes best: controls the strike zone. (You could say that Klentak added two players who control the strike zone to his lineup Friday as the trade of Freddy Galvis to San Diego for strike-throwing pitching prospect Enyel De Los Santos cleared the way for J.P. Crawford to be the regular shortstop.)

The Phillies need to do everything within reason to make sure that the first of Santana's three seasons with the club isn't about simply inching the rebuild forward. The Nationals are the class of the NL East, but the rest of the division ranges from ordinary to awful. The Phils, with an improved offense and bullpen (Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter), can play with Braves and Mets and clean up on the Marlins, the jewelry store that became a pawnshop, in agent Scott Boras' words.

It's just up to Klentak to get more starting pitching, and he's on the case. He admitted that at the winter meetings. He is particularly fond of young starters with years of control remaining on their contracts. Gerrit Cole, Chris Archer and Michael Fulmer fit this description. It takes talent to get pitchers like that. The Phillies have enough depth of prospects to get one of these guys and their reserves of expendable talent just grew with the Santana signing.

Santana, a switch-hitter who has averaged 25 homers, 85 RBIs and a .810 OPS in eight seasons, is going to be the team's primary first baseman. Rhys Hoskins is going to be the primary leftfielder. That means the Phillies suddenly have a young outfielder that they could deal. Maybe they try to capitalize on Nick Williams' strong half-season in the majors and package him for an arm. Or maybe it's Odubel Herrera or Aaron Altherr.

However it plays out, you can be sure that Klentak will be creative. You can rule nothing out with this guy. The other day, we poo-pooed the Phillies signing Jake Arrieta, who is looking for a long-term deal approaching $200 million. But if Arrieta lingers out there until February and is looking for a two-year landing spot, hey, maybe.

We wouldn't even put it past Klentak to entertain the idea of using Santana at third base a little bit — he did play 26 games there in 2014 — and trading Maikel Franco. The Giants were sniffing around, gathering intel on Franco at the winter meetings. There has to be a reason for that. Also at the meetings, an official from a rival club said the Phillies weren't as aggressive as he expected in trying to move Cesar Hernandez. Could it be that Hernandez would get some time at third if Franco were to be moved? Hernandez is still a trade chip, but he doesn't need to be cashed in until July and by that time Scott Kingery should be here.

There are a lot of ways this thing can go. And with the signing of Carlos Santana — which won't become official until he passes a physical next week — the Phillies have guaranteed that the remainder of this offseason will be a busy one.

It has to be.

The stakes have changed for 2018. The rebuild is still in place, but it has been ramped up. Matt Klentak has improved the bullpen and the offense. Now he has to attack that starting pitching and he has the trade weapons to do it.

Source: Phillies agree to $60 million deal with Carlos Santana

Source: Phillies agree to $60 million deal with Carlos Santana

The Phillies' busy Friday continued with a pricey free-agent signing.

The Phils have agreed to a three-year, $60 million deal with former Cleveland Indian Carlos Santana, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury.

It is by far the most expensive contract the Phillies have given out under the Matt Klentak-Andy MacPhail regime.

They had the money. When the offseason began, the only player the Phillies had signed to a multi-million dollar deal was Odubel Herrera.

Santana, 31, has always been a high-walk power hitter. From 2011 through 2017, he walked between 88 and 113 times each season, all while maintaining relatively low strikeout totals for a man with such power and plate selection.

In 2016, Santana set a career high with 34 home runs. Last season, he hit .259/.363/.455 with 37 doubles, 23 homers and 79 RBIs.

This addition provides the Phillies with much-needed pop to protect Rhys Hoskins and also gives the Phils added versatility. Santana is a switch-hitter who came up as a catcher, but he hasn't caught since 2014. The last three seasons, he has played primarily first base. In his eight seasons, Santana has also started 26 games at third base and seven in right field.

The move likely means Hoskins will play left field, and it could facilitate another Phillies trade of an outfielder such as Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr or Odubel Herrera.