NEW YORK (Reuters) - Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley remained eligible to play in Monday’s National League Divisional Series clash against the New York Mets on Monday as the appeal of his two-game suspension has not been heard, but he was not in the starting lineup.
Utley was suspended for what was deemed an illegal slide into Mets’ shortstop Ruben Tejada, who suffered a broken right leg from a collision at second base during Saturday’s second game of the best-of-five, which is tied at 1-1.
While Major League Baseball was ready to hear the appeal on Monday, the Players Association asked for more time to prepare for the hearing, which can be held up to 14 days after the discipline.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, who enjoyed a stellar career in New York as first baseman for the Yankees, said the charged atmosphere anticipated in the Big Apple and the focus on Utley was not a factor in his decision to start Howie Kendrick.
“We thought Howie has been swinging the bat good, and feel like he gives us the best chance to win today,” Mattingly said.
Mattingly said the decision to play Kendrick, the regular second baseman, was taken on “baseball reasons” despite Utley’s 6-for-18 mark against Mets starter Matt Harvey and not over concerns pegged to what could be a hostile crowd at Citi Field.
The play has caused a firestorm of debate on Twitter, at the water cooler and on talk radio on whether Utley’s aggressive collision with Tejada was simply hard-nosed baseball or a reckless play.
The Dodgers manager said Utley had assured him he felt alright after taking a knock on the head in the collision.
”I think he’s doing OK as far as concussion protocol and all that kind of stuff,“ Mattingly said. ”I just talked to him about how he was feeling, how everything was going.
”Just all the stir about it and just to make sure he was physically good ... and make sure he felt comfortable as far as being safe, those type of issues.
“Chase has played a long time, played in big games. So I don’t think the moment, that part of it, you don’t worry about him being ready for that.”
While the Dodgers’ have defended Utley’s aggressive baserunning, Mets players were angered by the slide and New York sports talk shows have fielded a heavy stream of outraged calls over the play.
Mattingly said he wanted to make sure Utley felt safe.
“You worry about all that other stuff ... make sure he’s comfortable with MLB security, MLB taking care of all the issues,” he said.
“But in today’s society I don’t think you can take that lightly,” added Mattingly.
“So I just wanted to make sure he’s comfortable, his family is comfortable.”
Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Andrew Both/Greg Stutchbury