Chase Utley expected back with Dodgers for 2018 season
GLENDALE, Ariz. – An organization that likes to keep a tight lid on information failed miserably at this.
The locker nearest the door, around the hall from the coaches’ meeting room, in the clubhouse at Camelback Ranch had no nameplate on it Tuesday morning. But cleats with the No. 26 on them and gloves with his name were in it and boxes addressed to “Chase Utley” were stacked in front of it.
“Yeah, they’re not hiding it very well,” Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw said.
The Dodgers are indeed expected to announce the re-signing of Utley to a one-year contract in the next day or two. The veteran second baseman turned 39 in December and will be starting his 16th big-league season in 2018.
“He’s obviously had a huge impact on this organization the last couple of years and the clubhouse,” Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi said in January of Utley who worked out at Dodger Stadium this winter despite being an unsigned free agent. “We do have some young players that we’re looking to get more at-bats for and create more opportunities for.
“Particularly at second base, we do have a multitude of options there, so we’re kind of going through the baseball fit. If we can get together on a role and what the opportunity looks like — obviously, his impact in the clubhouse is something we’d love to have going forward as well.”
Last year, Utley hit .236 with eight home runs and 34 RBI in 127 games, starting 68 at second base, 10 at first base and three at DH.
The Dodgers do need a left-handed bat to platoon with right-handed Logan Forsythe at second base. Forsythe hit .290 with an .870 OPS against left-handed pitchers last season but only .190 with a .576 OPS against right-handers.
But the Dodgers value Utley for other reasons.
“I think at this point I think everybody understands it,” Kershaw said. “You probably understand it more if you’re in the locker room with him every day or you watch how he goes about it every day and in games and how he does that. He might not be the player he was 10 years ago but he’s still a very valuable asset to have. I don’t think there’s a guy in here that wouldn’t be excited if he’s around.”
In a move the Dodgers did not try to hide, they signed right-handed reliever Brian Schlitter to a minor-league deal with a non-roster invitation to spring training.
Schlitter, 32, has not pitched in the major leagues since 2015 after making 61 appearances with the Chicago Cubs over three seasons (2010, 2014-15). He spent 2016 in Triple-A for the Colorado Rockies and 2017 with the Seibu Lions in Japan, going 1-5 with a 2.83 ERA there.
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