Dodgers infielder Chase Utley said he felt more relieved than vindicated that Major League Baseball dropped his two-game suspension for his controversial slide that broke the leg of New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada last October.
“I think it’s good for everyone that we can put this behind us and focus on baseball,” Utley said before Monday's 8-5 exhibition loss to the Cleveland Indians at Camelback Ranch.
“I’ve been playing this game for a while now, and being a middle infielder, I’ve come across a ton of slides that were similar, and I understand that it’s part of the game...I can't say enough how terrible I felt about what happened to Ruben. I had no intent to hurt him whatsoever. If anybody thinks I did, they're completely wrong.
Utley barreled hard and late into Tejada, whose back was turned, while breaking up a double play in Game 2 of the National League division series. In announcing the suspension, MLB called the slide "illegal," with chief baseball officer Joe Torre citing Utley for a "rolling block . . . away from the base."
But such a slide was not explicitly outlawed until Feb. 25, when MLB adopted a rule to protect middle infielders on slides into second.
“I think at the time, he felt he needed to make a quick decision,” Utley said of Torre. “Obviously, in the playoffs, there’s a lot of attention brought to that, and he did what he felt he needed to do.
“I talked to Joe Torre at length on the phone, and he expressed to me that what happened in the playoffs, after looking at other slides over the course of the years, it was not much different.”
Utley appealed the suspension — enabling him to remain eligible through the playoffs — and MLB and the players’ union subsequently agreed to rescind it.
Torre said the suspension “sort of lost its impact” once it became clear that Utley, who signed a one-year, $7-million deal with the Dodgers this winter, would not miss any postseason games.
“Well, obviously it was four or five months ago, but at the end of the day, I believe that he believes the slide was not illegal,” Utley said. “Therefore, there should be no suspension. It was a tough situation for everyone. You never want to see an opposing player get hurt, ever.
Brandon Beachy, two years removed from his second elbow ligament surgery and competing for the fifth rotation spot, allowed one hit in two scoreless innings in his first spring outing Monday, but it was a struggle. He walked two, and of his 30 pitches, only 14 were strikes.
"I've been feeling really good in the bullpens, then you get out there, and it's just a little different," Beachy said. "You fight off the adrenaline a bit. I was rushing on the fastball and babying the off-speed stuff."
Beachy missed much of 2013 and all of 2014. He felt a little tentative in 2015, when he made 10 starts for triple-A Oklahoma City and two for the Dodgers.
But compared to last summer, the right-hander's trust in his elbow "is like night and day," he said. "It's not something I'm thinking about. I'm not worried about it. It's either healthy or it's not. There's nothing I can do about it."
Beachy, Mike Bolsinger and Zach Lee are the leading candidates for a rotation vacancy created by injuries to Brett Anderson, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy.
Julio Urias, widely considered the best left-handed pitching prospect in baseball, drew quite a crowd when he threw the equivalent of two innings of batting practice.
Watching the 19-year-old left-hander's 30-pitch workout were Andrew Friedman, president of baseball operations, General Manager Farhan Zaidi, senior vice president Josh Byrnes, Manager Dave Roberts, special assistant Greg Maddux and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. Urias is expected to pitch in a game this weekend.
"He's a special young man," Roberts said. "The repeatability of his mechanics, for a young pitcher, is impressive. The sharpness of his breaking ball, the late life on his fastball, the glove-side command of his fastball . . . he was pretty impressive. There's a lot to like."