The Phillies' All-Star second baseman and MVP candidate assured reporters he will return this season, but there is still a possibility he will miss the remainder of 2007.
The injury is a break to the fourth metacarpal bone in his right hand, confirmed by the team Web site. One report called it a fractured right ring finger and set the minimum timetable at three weeks, while the majority of reports are setting the timetable around four-to-six weeks. It sometimes takes longer than that; it took Milwaukee's Jeff Cirillo nine weeks to recover from the same break.
Manager Charlie Manuel has indicated that utilityman Abraham Nunez will take over at second, which means Utley’s production will be almost completely wiped away. Nunez is a sub-replacement level producer (-3.9 VORP) with no power, and the minor league options – Joe Thurston and Danny Sandoval – would represent an even worse drag on the team. For all his faults as a hitter, Nunez is a slick-fielding middle infielder and better than anyone they've got.
Even with Utley’s bat erased from the boxscore for at least a month, it still isn't their biggest issue. They didn't have enough pitching back in the glory days of 24 hours ago when they had an MVP performer at second. As demonstrated in yesterday’s 7-6 loss – a game they led 5-2 late – the brutal bullpen can't be trusted. Not to mention a paper-thin rotation.
Many readers suggested picking up an infielder, but I'm hesitant. There's no way they should get into a bidding war and give up a good pitching prospect for a second-rate infielder who might become obsolete in four weeks. A smarter call may be to endure Nuni, keep the Wes Helms/Greg Dobbs platoon at third, see some more Chris Coste behind the plate for the added offense, and use their scarce prospects for pitching help if they can. If it costs only organizational filler (they have plenty to spare), go for it. If not, no thanks. Who knows? Maybe a Nunez/Dobbs platoon at second can generate a positive moment or two.
Or one. Just one.
Stay with Beerleaguer throughout the day as the Phillies announce their roster plans.