Jimmy Rollins cracked a smile Wednesday afternoon, even after the Dodgers dropped a 5-2 decision to the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum.
The Dodgers were about to acquire six-time All-Star Chase Utley, Rollins’ former double-play partner with the Philadelphia Phillies.
“He has a chance to play some meaningful baseball late in the year again,” Rollins said. “That’s what we all want.”
The waiver deal was completed later in the day, as the Dodgers received the 36-year-old second baseman and $4 million in exchange for minor leaguers Darnell Sweeney and John Richy.
Utley is expected to play second base while Howie Kendrick remains sidelined because of a strained left hamstring. Kendrick, who has already missed more than week, isn’t expected to return from the disabled list until some time next month.
Utility man Enrique Hernandez, who has been the team’s primary second baseman in Kendrick’s absence, is expected to move to the outfield. Hernandez would offer the Dodgers a right-handed-hitting alternative to slumping rookie Joc Pederson, who has five hits in his last 51 at-bats.
Utley, who wasn’t in the Phillies lineup Wednesday, is a career .282 hitter who is batting .217 with five home runs and 30 runs batted in. He has been limited to 73 games because of problems with his right ankle.
However, Utley has looked like his old self since returning from the disabled list on Aug. 7, collecting 15 hits in 31 at-bats.
“Hopefully, first and foremost, he’s healthy and in a good place,” Rollins said. “With that being the case, the way he’s swung the bat since he’s been playing, anyone can use that and we can definitely use it.”
Particularly with how the Dodgers’ offense performed in the team’s two losses in Oakland over the last two days.
They had two hits Wednesday. One was a two-run home run by Rollins in the third inning.
Rollins’ blast to right-center field gave the Dodgers a 2-1 lead they held until the sixth inning, when the Athletics scored twice against starting pitcher Alex Wood.
The Athletics scored twice more in the eighth inning.
Some time during the game, Rollins returned to clubhouse and learned he could soon be reunited with Utley, whom he played alongside for 12 seasons.
With Rollins at shortstop and Utley at second base, the Phillies won a World Series in 2008.
“With me and Chase, we’ve done it for a long time together,” Rollins said. “I don’t have to worry about him, I don’t have to think about him. It’s an unspoken language that middle infielders have. We have that trust and comfort with each other.”
As a player with 10 years of major league experience, including the last five with the same team, Utley had the right to block a trade to any team. Asked whether Utley had spoken to him about what it was like to play for the Dodgers, Rollins replied, “Maybe.”
“We may have had a conversation or something,” Rollins said. “Those things remain between us.”
Utley cleared waivers last week. The Phillies will cover a portion of what remains of his $15-million salary, as well as the $2 million to buy out his team option for next season.
The trade will mark a homecoming for Utley, a Southern California native. Utley was the Dodgers’ second-round draft pick out of Long Beach Poly High in 1997, but attended UCLA instead of turning professional.
Left-hander Brett Anderson (7-7, 3.48 ERA) will face right-hander Mike Fiers (5-9, 3.87) and the Houston Astros on Friday at 5 p.m. at Minute Maid Park. TV: SportsNetLA; Radio: 570, 1020.
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