The next few weeks should go a long way in determining the direction of the Philadelphia Phillies’ 2012 season. With a 34-40 record, they sit 9 games out of first place in the National League East division and 5.5 games out of a Wild Card spot.
Major League Baseball’s unofficial halfway point, the All Star Break, is only two weeks away, and the annual trade deadline is only three weeks after that. While it’s only the end of June, the Phillies are going to have to make a move up the standings soon, otherwise, the team’s management may start preparing to sell off pieces, instead of improving the team, come July 31.
The Phillies are in the midst of a poor stretch – they’ve lost 2 in a row, 6 out of their last 10, and are 7-15 in the month of June. So what better time to welcome back injured star Chase Utley?
Utley, who has missed the entire season with knee injuries, will be back in the Philadelphia area this week, playing a Triple-A game for Lehigh Valley on Tuesday. The team’s official website is reporting that, if all goes well, Utley could be back in the Phillies lineup as early as Wednesday.
Utley would certainly be a welcome addition to a Phillies’ lineup that seems to lack an identity and leadership. While the offense has started to produce lately – they rank 12th in the league with 317 runs scored on the year – adding another productive bat, and a leader in the clubhouse, should pay huge dividends. In 9 rehab games at Class-A Clearwater, Utley only went 5-for-32 at the plate with 1 home run and 5 RBIs, but his mere presence in the lineup should boost the entire team.
Will it be enough to vault the Phillies back to the top of the National League standings? On its own, probably not. But maybe his return can serve as a motivating factor for the rest of the team and help the club climb out of the cellar in the NL East and back into contention.
It’s either that, or we could all be waving goodbye to players such as Jim Thome, Cole Hamels and Shane Victorino in a month’s time.