With Howie Kendrick on the 15-day disabled list nursing a left hamstring and Joc Pederson continuing to slump, the Los Angeles Dodgers in some sense were stuck between a rock and a hard place. So, they went out and traded for veteran second baseman Chase Utley.
The move allowed Kiké Hernandez, who had been filling in for Kendrick, to take over in more of a “full-time” role in center field. However, given that Kendrick is expected back at some point in September, where Utley fit in with the club beyond the next few weeks was somewhat unclear.
Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi provided some clarity when he said the UCLA product would perhaps spell Justin Turner at third base and Adrian Gonzalez at first; two positions he’s never played in the Majors. Prior to Saturday’s game Utley worked out at third base under the eye of Dodgers bench coach Tim Wallach.
It was the second time they’ve worked together on familiarizing Utley with the hot corner since he was traded to the Dodgers. “I know there’s some type of process Wally [Wallach] is trying to get to kind of in stages,” manager Don Mattingly said of Utley getting the 1-on-1 lessons. “I know he’s got a couple of more scheduled [sessions] to work there [third base].”
With Wallach doing the hands-on coaching, Mattingly was positioned at first base to take Utley’s throws across the diamond. But, he isn’t ready to pass judgement on the 36 year old. “It’s too early for me. This was the second day he’s been out there,” Mattingly answered when asked to assess Utley’s work at third base.
While Kendrick remains on track for a September return, he’s stalled a bit in his recovery from the hamstring train and been delayed by a few days. Mattingly has previously indicated Kendrick will be the starting second baseman once he’s reinstated from the disabled list and his comments on Utley further support that notion.
“Hopefully by the time Howie is ready to roll Chase is a lot more comfortable there [third base],” Mattingly said. “That’s the plan we would like to be able to use to get JT [Justin Turner] a couple days a week off.” Saturday was the first game Utley did not start since being traded to the Dodgers.