PHILADELPHIA — It's a good news, bad news scenario.
Let's get the bad news out of the way first.
Few players are as familiar with the challenges of moving from second base to third base as Placido Polanco.
The 14-year veteran has won Gold Gloves at both positions — one of only two players ever to win Gold Gloves at multiple positions — and will be the first to tell you that the move, which Chase Utley appears to be testing out, is hard to make.
"It wears you out, without a doubt because you don't have time to react," Polanco told The Morning Call about playing third base. "You have to be on your toes. The ball is hit harder there.
"At second base you kind of step in. There's no stepping in at third base. You've got to be like a goalie, move to your right and left. That's the thinking you've got to have. And you've got to stretch your arm. It's a longer throw. You have to anticipate a play way before it happens. So if you're not thinking before the play, the moment is gone."
Polanco hasn't let that happen much, though. He could be considered the best all-time at both positions.
Don't believe me. Check out these stats.
Polanco is Major League Baseball's all-time leader in fielding percentage at both positions. His .983 fielding percentage at third base is better than Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson (.971). And at second base, he's got a better fielding percentage (.993) than fellow Hall of Famer and current Lehigh Valley IronPigs manager Ryne Sandberg.
In 2010, Polanco made the fewest errors (five) ever committed by a Phillies third baseman who played a minimum of 120 games (previous record was six in 124 games by Mike Schmidt in 1986). That same season, Polanco had an 85-game errorless streak, which included 80 games at third base and five at second base.
Yes, he makes things look easy.
He made the adjustment of moving from second to third look even easier.
"I tell people to stay down [at third base]," Polanco said. "You read the ball better then. You've seen it a million times when someone is up and then they misplay a ground ball. If you stay down, it's easier to come up."
The good news Polanco, who played third base for two years in college, provided about the position switch bodes well for Utley, who is arguably the most popular player to wear a Phillies uniform the last decade.
"Of course, it can be done, especially him," Polanco said. "He's such a good athlete. He works so hard."
Utley is still a long way away from feeling comfortable at — or even committing to — third base, a position he played for just one year (2002) with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (in 123 games at third base, he made 28 errors in 340 chances, giving him a .918 fielding percentage).
He'd need to take hundreds more ground balls and make sure he builds up his arm strength. He'd have a whole new array of situations he'd have to learn to handle. And he'd have to study up on where to position himself for certain hitters.
"I played there probably 10 years ago and it went so-so," Utley said. "I thought it could be an option for the future."
It could be what's best for his body. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and Polanco agreed that third base would be easier on Utley's ailing knees than second base.
"You're not going as far [to chase balls]," Polanco said. "You're not moving as much. You're not jumping as much for turning double plays."