The Los Angeles Dodgers acquired veteran second basemen Chase Utley in mid-August with the initial plan he’d fill in for the injured Howie Kendrick.
With Kendrick’s recovery from a hamstring strain reaching several weeks, Utley wound up emerging as the every day starter at second base. However, given the expectation Kendrick would return, which has now occurred, it muddied the water for Utley’s role.
Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi provided clarity by revealing the club also viewed Utley as an option to spell Justin Turner at third base. While Utley has yet to make a start at the hot corner, his debut at that position with the Dodgers appears to be on the horizon.
“We think he is [getting close to playing third],” said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. “[Dodgers bench coach Tim] Wallach said it was his best day [Saturday]. I think the key there is him getting comfortable where he feels like he can do it.”
Utley has worked with Wallach at third base prior to several games in recent weeks to largely positive reviews. “Chase sounds like he’s willing to do it,” Mattingly said. “He gives his best effort so you’re never worried about that.”
Utley has never logged an inning in the Majors at third base and last played the position in 2002 with the Philadelphia Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate. Mattingly nonetheless is confident in Utley’s ability to make the adjustment.
“We feel like he could defend over there,” he said. “We want to get him to where he feels like he’s not going to embarrass himself. We’re getting closer to that.” Alex Guerrero received the start at third base on Sunday as Turner is dealing with left knee soreness.
Although the Dodgers intend to get Utley time at third, they’re also working a balancing act with easing Kendrick back into the lineup on an every-other-day basis.