Dodgers News: Chase Utley Welcomes Howie Kendrick’s Return
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Since taking the helm as president of baseball operations for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Andrew Friedman has not shied away from carrying plenty of depth on the 25- and 40-man rosters and throughout the organization.

The club focused on adding pitching depth last year, and did so again this offseason. On top of that, the Dodgers’ already-deep group of infielders grew on Friday with news of Howie Kendrick agreeing to a two-year contract.

Although Kendrick’s return strengthens the team, it also changes the roles Kiké Hernandez and Chase Utley were expected to fill.

With Kendrick re-signing appearing unlikely for much of the offseason, the duo were projected to platoon at second base.

Neither, however, have concerns or issue with the 32-year-old Kendrick returning.

“I’m excited. Howie is obviously a great player,” Utley said from the Dodgers fourth annual FanFest on Saturday.

“I got to know him a little bit last year when I was here for the short amount of time. I have a lot of respect for him and how he has gone about his business over the years watching him from a far. So, I think he makes our team better.”

Utley, 37, re-signed with the Dodgers on a one-year, $7 million deal last December. He remains confident there’s still playing time to be distributed amongst the crowded group of infielders.

“I think there is still going to be opportunities to play,” Utley said. “That’s really all I ask for. The opportunity to get a chance to compete and help this team win.” The veteran second baseman hit .202/.291/.363 in 34 games with Los Angeles last season.

The majority of Utley’s starts came at second base with Kendrick on the disabled list due to a strained hamstring. However, the UCLA product also started three games at third base and played two (one start) at first base.

Versatility figures to be the common theme moving forward. “I think the more time I spend [at third base] during Spring Training, the more comfortable I will become,” Utley said. “I will go from there. I will work at it and be the best at it I can be.”

As for the two-game suspension Utley faces for his slide in Game 2 of the National League Division Series that broke New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada’s leg, the appeal hearing is expected to be heard during Spring Training.

“I was told a few months ago [appeal hearing would be held] at some point in Spring Training. I haven’t heard anything really since then,” Utley said. He added he’s open to abiding by a new rule on slides into second base should Major League Baseball elect to implement one.