Early indications show that Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley had a productive offseason. Apparently there were no health setbacks since the 2012 season ended. As long as he's able to manage his chronic knee condition, it's possible that some remnants of the “old Utley” may be seen again this year.
Using the word “old” when mentioning number 26 is rather dicey. He's only in his mid-30s, but has played for most parts of the last three seasons like he was ten years older.
Charlie Manuel needs this 10-year veteran to play approximately 130 games at second base and hit with authority in his traditional third spot in the batting order this season. If he can reach both of those marks, we should see a semblance of the player that he used to be on the field in 2013.
Utley's reduced performance during the past two seasons can't be underscored enough. This scrappy guy was one of the best all-around players in the game for five brilliant seasons (2005-2009) during what was most likely the prime of his career.
While this 34-year-old may not hit 30 home runs and drive in over 100 runners this season, consistent production would go a long way toward helping the Phillies' lineup to be better.
Along with Ryan Howard's return to 100% health status, Utley's steady efforts in the middle of the team's batting order are good for at least five more wins. As to whether other members of the team can rebound, new additions can contribute and other intangibles (like Roy Halladay's rebound attempt) break the Phillies' way all speak directly to why 162 regular season games will be played.