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Utley could play third base next year (and even this year)

By Danny Knobler | Baseball Insider

NEW YORK -- The Phillies aren't ready to turn to 2013 just yet, so Chase Utley started Monday night's game against the Mets at second base.

Not third base.

Utley continues to work out at third, and while it's not a certainty that he'll be playing there next year, it's more and more becoming a real possibility.

He may even play there this season, but general manager Ruben Amaro and manager Charlie Manuel both suggested Monday that won't happen until the Phillies give up on this last-gasp run at a wild-card spot.

"Only if he feels comfortable there, and likely only if we're out of the race," Amaro said.

Utley continues to work at third during early batting practice, and he was there again on Monday. The word is that he's feeling more comfortable there, and it's obvious the Phillies are becoming more comfortable with the idea.

If Utley plays third, Freddy Galvis would likely play second base, giving the Phillies a stronger overall defensive infield.

The Phillies want to add at least one significant hitter over the winter, but they figure it will be easier to add that hitter in the outfield. They would still have the option of adding a third baseman, and leaving Utley at second base.

Amaro said he's confident that Utley will be able to come to spring training healthy next year, something that hasn't happened either of the last two springs.

"Last year, he was still sore at the end of the season," Amaro said. "This year has been much better."

Utley has played in 68 of the Phillies' 71 games since he came off the disabled list on June 27. So far, he's played only second base.

That could change soon. The Phillies fell to four games out in the wild-card race when they lost three of four in Houston over the weekend.

They're close to being out of it, although Manuel said Monday, "We've still got a chance."

The chance got slightly better with Monday night's 3-1 win over the Mets, which pulled the Phillies to within 3 1/2 games of the Cardinals, who lead the race for the final wild-card spot. But the Phillies probably still need to go at least 11-3 in their final 14 games to have any hope.

Manuel said that as long as they feel they have a chance, it's unlikely that he would try Utley at third. Unlikely, but not impossible.

"I'm not saying I wouldn't do anything," he said. "I change my mind a lot."

This year more than ever.

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