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Spring training: Utley smashes 2 homers, Phillies beat Braves

The Associated Press

CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — Chase Utley hit two homers to give him long balls in four straight at-bats, Cole Hamels pitched six innings in his final start before opening day and the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Atlanta Braves 9-2 Wednesday.

Utley has hit two homers in each of his last two starts. His three-run homer to right field off Julio Teheran gave the Phillies the lead in the first. In his next at-bat, Utley led off the third with a shot that put the Phillies ahead 4-1.

“Having some positive results make you feel confident moving forward,” Utley said. “That’s the whole goal, try to put some good at-bats together, especially late in spring training, and try to take that into the regular season.”

Utley had two days off between starts in hopes of staying fresh for the season. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg wants to better monitor the number of games Utley plays after he wore down over the course of last season. Utley agrees with that strategy.

“A lot of that is my doing, because I want to be out there on a daily basis,” Utley said. “But I do understand that it might be beneficial taking a blow here and there.”

Hamels pitched six innings and allowed two runs — one earned — in his final spring tuneup. He starts Monday’s opener against the Boston Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park. The only noticeable mistake Hamels made against Atlanta resulted in a solo home run by Joe Benson in the second inning.

“When it comes down to the start of the season, you just want to have positive feelings and positive feedback from spring that you’re healthy and everything’s working,” Hamels said. “Right now I would say I feel a lot more sharp than I did two weeks ago.”

Teheran struggled during his four-inning outing. The Phillies scored seven runs and had eight hits, including four homers.

“It might have been where it was the last start of the spring and he’s ready to get going and maybe the focus wasn’t there like we wanted it to be,” Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “When that happens and you’ve got guys like Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in that group, you’re going to pay for it.”

Freddy Galvis and Rene Garcia hit back-to-back home runs off Teheran to start the fourth inning.

STARTING TIME

Phillies: With Cliff Lee on the 60-day disabled list, the need for Hamels to pitch well becomes especially important. “I think I’ve had years to prepare to be in that situation,” Hamels said. “When you’re pitching with guys like that, the sort of scrutiny is usually put on it when it’s postseason time, who’s going to lead your team in the postseason.”

ROSTER MOVES

The Phillies made three roster moves before Wednesday’s game. RHPs Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and Phillippe Aumont were sent outright to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. OF Brian Bogusevic was reassigned to minor league camp. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said he was a little surprised both pitchers made it through waivers without being claimed.

“We’re fortunate we squeezed them through, but we had to make some tough decisions,” Amaro said. “We made them and we were fortunate to be able to keep (them). We’re trying to keep all of our assets, particularly at this stage of the game this early in the season.”

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