PHOENIX — The Dodgers on Saturday finalized their one-year, $2 million contract with second baseman Chase Utley.
The Long Beach native signed with the Dodgers last offseason early in the free agency process, in December. But this time around his agreement came the week before camp opened, in February.
"I had a few different opportunities to go to different places, but the Dodgers kept in constant contact, and we were able to work something out,” Utley said. “I want to be a part of an organization that has a legitimate chance to win. I had a few options to go to a few places like that, but being familiar with the Dodgers, and growing up a Dodgers fan, it's good to have an opportunity to be back.”
Utley started 118 games at second base and had 565 plate appearances for the Dodgers in 2016, but this time around he figures to play a reduced role. Manager Dave Roberts said he expects Utley to play second base and some first base in 2017, but not third base.
When Justin Turner needs a rest, the plan is for second baseman Logan Forsythe will likely slide over to play third base, with Utley starting at second.
"Third base was Logan's natural position,” Roberts explained. “To keep Chase where he is most comfortable makes the most sense.”
Roberts said he would definitely find at-bats for Utley, and said it was a luxury to have an “everyday player” like Utley available in reserve.
“Having a guy like Chase on the bench, and on days Andre [Ethier] doesn't start, it's tough to manage against a team like that,” Roberts said. “We look at the pens in the National League, with a lot of right-handed guys. It's a good matchup for us.”
It’s no secret that Utley is universally loved in the clubhouse. He seemed almost embarrassed by the praise from his teammates, coaches and front office, half-jokingly apologizing to reporters as the plaudits were recounted.
"I still feel like I can contribute in a number of different ways. I still feel like I can contribute on the field, but also in the clubhouse a little bit,” Utley said. “I might not have all the right answers, but I have a little bit of experience on my side, so I'm always looking to try to help guys.
"It goes to show the things you do don't go unnoticed. The name of the game is to win baseball games, so if we can find an edge in any different situations, it can be important. It can lead to one win, it can build confidence, and that creates some momentum.
"Ultimately the goal for many of us in this clubhouse is to win a championship, and I feel like we have the pieces in place to do that here,” Utley said. “I like the guys in this locker room.”
To make room for Utley on the 40-man roster, the Dodgers released Darin Ruf, who signed a one-year deal with the Samsung Lions of the Korean Baseball Organization.