PHILADELPHIA -- Second baseman Chase Utley is giving the Phillies a reason to be quietly optimistic that he can come back from the chronic knee problems that have cost him a large chunk of the last two seasons and have a big year in 2013.
With a single and a home run in Sunday's 5-4 win over the D-backs, Utley already has seven homers in 30 games since being activated from the disabled list with bilateral chondromalacia, a softening and and breakdown of the cartilage under the kneecap. After missing the first two months last season, Utley came back but had just six homers in 103 games.
"I feel like I've built more strength in my legs," Utley said. "I still feel like I can get them stronger. So we'll see. I think I'm driving the ball better. I think my at-bats are a little bit better. I feel a little bit stronger.
Said manager Charlie Manuel: "His swing is pretty good. When you see him taking balls down and away and hitting them hard to right field, that's staying on the baseball and being prepared. That's real good. He's been hitting the ball on the fat part of the bat."
Utley has reached base by a hit or walk in 18 of his 21 games since the All-Star break.
Lee insists trade talk not a distraction
PHILADELPHIA -- Cliff Lee insisted he wasn't perturbed. Not by the trade and waiver speculation that swirled around him for the last few weeks. Not by giving up three home runs against the Diamondbacks on Sunday at Citizens Bank Park.
Especially not by the speculation.
"I just don't worry about it, really," the veteran left-hander said after the Phillies 5-4, come-from-behind win. "It's all rumors until [general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.] tells me I'm moved or something. So I don't really worry too much about it, to be honest with you."
Lee made it clear that he wanted to come back to Philadelphia when he became a free agent after the 2010 season, and he accomplished that by signing a five-year, $120 million contract. He's been inconsistent at times and the Phillies haven't lived up to expectations, which helps explain the trade talk. The breathless reports that he'd been placed on waivers and, later, that he's been claimed by the Dodgers are another issue.
Lee feels secure.
"I mean, you never know what's going to happen, but I signed here to play here," Lee said. "They signed me here to play here. So as far as I know they want me to pitch here. I think it was way overblown. They put a lot of players on waivers throughout the year.
"It's just a standard deal. I don't know why it became a story. Players being claimed happens all the time. I don't know why that's a story. There are probably a lot of guys on this team who were put on waivers and claimed, too, and nothing ever came of it. So I don't know why it's a big deal because it was me. But, whatever."
Amaro's response earlier in the weekend: "He's not going anywhere."
Lee pitched well in stretches on Sunday, retiring the D-backs in order five separate innings. But he's also given up seven home runs in his last three starts, covering 22 innings. Last year he allowed just 18 all season in 232 2/3 innings.
"The home runs, I've got to do a better job of keeping the ball down, keeping it in the ballpark," said Lee, who is winless in his eight starts at Citizens Bank Park this year. "When it's hot here the ball really travels and that's when I've got to be more conscious of keeping the ball down, induce more ground balls.
"They hit three homers. But fortunately we answered back and tied it in the eighth and won it in the ninth. So that was big for our offense there."
Kendrick to start Wednesday vs. Braves
PHILADELPHIA -- When the Phillies official media notes were distributed on Sunday, there was still a question as to who would start against the Braves on Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park. The line read: RHP Tim Hudson (11-4, 3.45) vs. TBD.
After versatile Kyle Kendrick stepped in to make an emergency start following the trade that sent Joe Blanton to the Dodgers on Friday, both manager Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee hedged when asked who would fill that spot five days later. But Dubee confirmed on Sunday that it will, in fact, be Kendrick.
The 27-year-old righthander has made 14 starts and 12 relief appearances this season, but has always made his preference known.
"I definitely was throwing good out of the bullpen, but I'm happy to be starting again, that's for sure," Kendrick said. "I think they already know a lot about me. I just have to go out there and pitch good. That's the main thing. Maybe teams, not just this team, see that [versatility]. It doesn't do anything but help. But obviously I want to be in the rotation somewhere for a long time."
This will be a financially rewarding appearance for Kendrick, as well. On top of his $3 million base salary, Kendrick gets a $100,000 bonus for making 15 starts.
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who was hitting .187 in his last 22 games, got a little break Sunday. He was a late scratch from the starting lineup, but entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the eighth and then stayed in the game.
In his three years with the Phillies, Roy Halladay has made 16 starts in which he's pitched at least seven scoreless innings, including Saturday night. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that's the most by any Major League pitcher since 2010.
Infielder Mike Fontenot, who was designated for assignment on Aug. 1 to make room for newly acquired Josh Lindblom and Nate Schierholtz, has been released.
The Phillies observed a moment of silence for Garrett Reid before Sunday's game. The 29-year-old son of Eagles head coach Andy Reid was found dead in his room at the Eagles training camp at Lehigh University on Sunday morning. Local police said there was no "suspicious" activity and no cause of death has been determined.
Five of the Phillies last six home wins have come in their final at-bat.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.