CLEARWATER, Fla. -- It had been a couple years of setbacks and soreness, but Chase Utley is finally back on the field.
He played three innings Saturday in the Phillies' Grapefruit League opener against the Houston Astros at Bright House Field. It was his first Spring Training game since 2010 because of problems with chronically injured knees. Utley went 1-for-2 with one RBI, ripping the first pitch he saw from Astros right-hander Lucas Harrell up the middle in the first inning to score a run in the 8-3 loss.
"It was a good first step," Utley said.
Utley isn't sure how much he will play this spring or if he will be on a routine schedule like other players in camp, but he will not play Sunday against the Tigers in Lakeland. He is expected back in the lineup Monday against the Tigers in Clearwater.
"To be honest, I forgot what a normal Spring Training schedule is," he said. "No, what Charlie [Manuel] and I have planned, there will be plenty of games under my belt. So far so good. Things are progressing well. … The last couple of Spring Trainings I was just trying to figure out a way to get on the field, and that didn't work. This year, the stuff I did in the offseason has worked so far. Hopefully it will give me a chance to not only know what I need to do to get on the field but to actually make some progressions while playing."
But the biggest question is: no pain in the knees?
"I feel good," he said. "Perfect."
Hamels feeling urge to accept leadership role
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Nobody has said a word to Cole Hamels about Opening Day, which is fine with him.
Pitching the season opener would be nice, but …
"I've never really thought about it," he said after pitching two scoreless innings Saturday in the Phillies' Grapefruit League opener against Houston at Bright House Field. "It's one game, one appearance and then you're back into the normal baseball atmosphere. I've never really looked at it as this big sort of ordeal. I've always valued the playoffs. When you have to lead off the playoff game and a series, I think that's pretty important. I think that's kind of where it's at. If you do get that honor, you just go out and stick to business and try to win a ballgame."
Hamels is expected to start Opening Day on April 1, but that is more than a month away. Saturday simply represented the first step toward what Hamels hopes is a late run into October. That is what he is preparing for, and that is what is on his mind.
It is why he said he declined to participate in the World Baseball Classic.
"I don't think it's the smartest thing for pitchers to do," he said. "Ultimately, I think a lot of the pitchers have the right idea, too. You don't see any of the big-time guys up there. I think ultimately our goal is to win a World Series, not the WBC. That's something I'm always going to keep on track, that's first and foremost -- winning the World Series. I'm going to do everything I can for the Phillies and this organization and my teammates."
So Hamels also acknowledged he could step into more of a leadership role this season. Phillies right-hander Roy Halladay said earlier this week it's Hamels' time to start Opening Day. He also said it's time for him to become more vocal as a leader. Those comments came before closer Jonathan Papelbon said he hadn't seen any leadership in the clubhouse since he has been here.
"I'm almost 30, so I should probably kick it in gear with the leadership role," Hamels said. "I have been here for a long time and I've seen some leaders leave, like Pat [Burrell], [Jamie] Moyer and Jayson Werth and Aaron Rowand -- those guys were big-time leaders. You can't expect new guys to come in and lead a team. They have to feel it out. I agree with Pap. Last year, I wasn't fulfilling my end of the bargain either. We are all guilty. We all have to step up and take a role and a presence in this team and get back to what we're capable of doing, which is winning."
Hamels used to talk about throwing perfect games and winning Cy Young Awards, but that is on the back burner. He said he sees a sense of urgency in the clubhouse this spring as some players sense the window of opportunity to win closing.
So the Cy Young Award? Eh, that would be a nice bonus.
"I'd be lying if I didn't say it would be nice to have one," he said. "I would trade Cy Youngs for World Series rings any day of the week, and I think [Cliff Lee and Halladay] would, too. That's the reason why we play baseball -- to win championships, not a plaque to put on the wall."
Phils acquire first baseman Charles for Schwimer
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- There is more to the Michael Schwimer trade than just a glut of relief pitchers in Phillies camp.
The Phillies announced Saturday that they traded Schwimer to the Toronto Blue Jays for Minor League first baseman Art Charles. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said they shipped Schwimer to Toronto because they had depth in the bullpen, they needed to anticipate future roster moves and they needed power at the Minor League level. But Schwimer had fallen out of favor with the organization after he disputed the Phillies' decision to send him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley in August, claiming he was injured, although there also had been other issues.
It might be more accurate to call this trade addition by subtraction.
"He's a great kid," said Amaro, when asked if last season's dispute sparked the trade. "There's nothing wrong with Schwim."
Schwimer said he agreed, but added one caveat.
"The Phillies want to win, period, so they're not going to let any petty differences affect them wanting to win," he said. "So, in my opinion, I think that had absolutely zero effect."
Major League Baseball rules prevent a team from sending a player to the Minor Leagues while injured. The Phillies optioned Schwimer to Lehigh Valley on Aug. 23. He said he was hurt and should have been placed on the disabled list, but the Phillies disagreed. Schwimer didn't report to the team immediately as he sought a second opinion. And while no formal grievance has been filed, Schwimer said, "As far as I'm concerned it's an open issue. Nothing has been filed. Nothing has been done. But it's still definitely an open issue."
"There's a lot of things I can't get into with that," he added. "What I will say was there was definitely a disconnect in communication from what I … that's all I'm going to say. It was nothing personal against them, it was nothing personal against me. As a young player, you really don't know how to handle certain things, and in their opinion I handled things the wrong way, and in my opinion they handled things … it was just a communication difference."
Schwimer also got into trouble earlier in the season when he tweeted roster moves before they became official. And while there was a personality conflict at times, Schwimer was highly complimentary to the organization Saturday.
"This is a business," Schwimer said. "Everybody has to do what they think will make the team better. I respect their decision completely. I absolutely loved my time with the Phillies. They drafted me in 2008, called me up to the big leagues and ... if I wasn't a Phillie I would never have met my wife, so there's a lot of life things and a lot of both on and off the field things that would never have happened if I wasn't a Philadelphia Phillie. I loved the teammates and the team. I hope we meet in the World Series. It's been a great time and a great ride."
Even with a plethora of relievers in camp, it is unusual to trade a pitcher like Schwimer, who has plenty of potential. He had a 7.56 ERA through nine appearances last season, but a 3.46 ERA in his final 26 appearances. He also has options remaining, which makes him valuable.
"It's an arm that should pitch in the big leagues," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "He's got plenty of talent to pitch in the big leagues. He's got to get some presence. He's got to get some composure on the mound. He's got to understand who he is and what he is as a pitcher. But he's got to stick to doing things the right way instead of trying to be too macho at times and coming out of his delivery."
Asked if he felt like he needed to make this trade now, Amaro said, "No, we didn't have to. We could have waited, but we felt like it was the right thing to do right now for us."
Charles, 22, hit .236 with 15 doubles, four triples, 13 home runs, 34 RBIs and a .909 OPS combined with Rookie level Bluefield and Class A Vancouver.
"Charles is a guy that has got big pop," Amaro said. "Whether he is going to be a Major League hitter at some point, we don't know. But we know he has a lot of power and is a pretty decent athlete. He's a big kid, and we'll see -- a lot of home runs, a lot of strikeouts, a lot of walks. We'll see. We're taking a chance on a guy."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.