MINNEAPOLIS — Chase Utley would prefer to remain with the Philadelphia Phillies, the team that drafted him 14 years ago.
With the Phillies last in the NL East at 42-53, it’s possible the team might try to deal veterans for prospects before the July 31 deadline for trades without waivers. A six-time All-Star, Utley is owed $15 million next season as part of a deal that contains options for $15 million in each of three additional years that could become guaranteed if he has 500 plate appearances in the previous season and doesn’t finish the season hurt.
“The grass isn’t always greener on the other side,” he said Monday. “I’ve picked some brains over the course of the last few years. I really enjoy Philadelphia. I love playing baseball in Citizens Bank Park. I love playing in front of Philly fans. There’s no better place to play in my opinion. Obviously winning is important and you want to do that, and I would like to do that in Philadelphia.”
While he wants to stay, he understands the Phillies may decide to clear out veterans.
“If someone at some point comes up to me and says you’re not wanted in Philadelphia anymore, I might have to rethink that,” he said. “I think if I was a betting man I would say probably there will be no change.”
Taking it slow
The average time of a nine-inning game this season has been 3 hours, 3 minutes, which would be a record for a full season, according to STATS. Despite Major League Baseball’s efforts to speed the pace of games, the average is up four minutes from last years and 12 minutes since 2010.
That’s just fine with Milwaukee’s Jonathan Lucroy, the NL’s starting catcher.
“I don’t think you ever want to speed up games. I think you should leave the game the way it is. I think it’s fine. It’s been like that for 100 years,” said Lucroy, a former UL-Lafayette star. “Any time you try to speed up the game I think you’re going to run into some more issues. Guys are going to be getting hurt. They’re not going to be getting loose enough. And on a cold night, you’ve got to let guys get loose. You can’t just be going, ‘Hey, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.’ Guys are going to get hurt. You’ve got to let guys take their time, man.”
St. Louis right-hander Pat Neshek was a surprise pick for the NL squad, and the selection by manager Mike Matheny made as much of an impression on everyone else as it did on Neshek.
“To watch Pat Neshek and watch his face when he made this club, probably the best memory without a doubt so far,” Matheny said.
The side-armer has allowed three runs in 38.1 innings as the primary setup man for the Cardinals, with only 17 hits and five walks against him. Matheny mentioned the importance of recognizing oft-ignored middle relievers in making his pick. But Neshek’s case was special, considering the All-Star game this year is at Target Field.
Neshek’s suburban high school in Brooklyn Park is less than 10 miles north of the ballpark. Neshek was drafted by the hometown Twins and debuted with stellar seasons in 2006 and 2007 before an elbow injury and surgery derailed his career. He caught on with San Diego in 2011 and then Oakland in ’12, when his son, Gehrig, died one day after birth.
So Neshek’s presence here has brought a smile to many faces.
“Personally and professionally, he was having some bad luck,” said former Twins teammate Glen Perkins, a reliever for the AL team and a fellow native of Minnesota. “It’s awesome. That’s quite a story that he’s here. I think everybody in Minnesota is excited that he’s here, and they should be.”
That includes Paul Neshek, his younger sibling who works on the Target Field grounds crew. Naturally, Paul Neshek will be stationed in the bullpen.
“Somehow he got that job for the game. He’s real excited,” Pat Neshek said.
As is his big brother.
Special guest: VP’s wife
Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, planned to attend the All-Star game.
Her schedule included meeting the 30 winners of the “All-Star Teachers” program and joining them for a parade down Nicollet Mall, not far from the ballpark.