Dodgers have faith in Chase Utley

Chase Utley is a six-time All-Star and a former World Series champion. He is also 36 years old.

Realistically, what can the Dodgers expect from Utley at this stage of his career?

The recently acquired second baseman, who is expected to be in uniform Friday for the opening game of a three-game series against the Houston Astros, is batting a career-low .217.

However, pointing to how he has 15 hits in 31 at-bats since returning from the disabled list this month, General Manager Farhan Zaidi said he still views the former Philadelphia Phillies icon as a top- or middle-of-the-order hitter.

"When he's healthy, he's still one of the best hitters in the game," Zaidi said.

Ankle injuries have limited Utley to 73 games this season. He was batting only .179 when the Phillies placed him on the disabled list June 23. Furthermore, he has been slowed in recent seasons by knee problems.

Zaidi said the Dodgers are mindful of this.

"I don't think he's a guy that's going to come in and play 42 straight games at the end of the season," Zaidi said.

For now, the Dodgers plan for Utley to be their primary second baseman over the next few weeks while Howie Kendrick recovers from a strained hamstring.

Zaidi said the front office made it a point to speak to Kendrick and his agent about trading for Utley. Kendrick will be a free agent this winter, meaning any future loss in playing time could affect him financially.

"They understand we're in a playoff push," Zaidi said.

Kendrick is expected to be ready to start playing in minor league games early in September. He presumably would be activated soon after that.

While Zaidi wouldn't say what the Dodgers would do when Kendrick returns, he mentioned how Utley has played first base and worked out at third.

"Chase has some ability to move around," Zaidi said.

The addition of Utley resulted in the departure of Alberto Callaspo, as the backup third baseman was designated for assignment to clear a roster spot. That leaves Alex Guerrero and Enrique Hernandez as the backups to starting third baseman Justin Turner.

Guerrero's defensive shortcomings are such that the light-hitting Callaspo played ahead of Guerrero when Turner was unavailable. Hernandez, a utility man, hasn't played a game at third base this season.

Though the Dodgers sent two mid-level prospects to the Phillies to acquire Utley, Zaidi said they have enough depth in their farm system to trade for a quality reliever if one becomes available.

The trade for Utley perhaps marked a slight shift in philosophy for the Dodgers, who were reluctant to trade prospects for a rental player leading up to the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline.

The players they exchanged for Utley weren't in the same class as Corey Seager or Julio Urias, but they weren't nobodies.

One of them, fleet-footed infielder/outfielder Darnell Sweeney, was immediately added to the Phillies' major league roster. The other, former third-round pick John Richy, was 10-5 with a 4.20 earned-run average with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga.

Zaidi said Utley's price was a reflection not only of the demand for him — the Angels and San Francisco Giants also were said to be interested — but also of the time of the year.

Utley might play regularly for only three weeks, but there are only six weeks left in the regular season.

As Zaidi said, "Three weeks is a long time in a pennant race."

Up next

Left-hander Brett Anderson (7-7, 3.48 ERA) will face right-hander Mike Fiers (5-9, 3.87) and the Astros on Friday at 5 PDT at Minute Maid Park. TV: SportsNet LA; Radio: 570, 1020.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

Twitter: @dylanohernandez

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