SAN DIEGO -- One game into a new season and Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Chase Utley already is taking heat for another slide.
This one occurred in Monday's season opener, on a play when he was actually thrown out at the plate, one of the few Dodgers blemishes during a 15-0 victory over the San Diego Padres. The 37-year-old veteran was cut down at home trying to score from first base on a third-inning double from Justin Turner.
At the end of the play, Utley is seen sliding alongside the feet of Padres catcher Derek Norris, on the first-base side of the plate as the tag is applied. Representation of the play via some internet reports Tuesday suggested that Utley went out of his way to slide toward Norris in an illegal play. Norris was not knocked off his feet on the play.
Utley had actually veered inside the field of play well up the third-base line, in order to cut off the angle from Padres shortstop Alexei Ramirez, who was handling the relay throw in shallow left field. That put him on the playing-field side of home, instead of what is being considered an apparent intent to make contact with Norris.
"I think any time you can try to get in the line of the throw, the better chances you have of being safe," Utley told ESPN.com Tuesday. "We were taught that in spring training, and obviously I was taught that a long time ago. It was definitely emphasized this spring training here."
Utley gained both notoriety and infamy for a hard slide at second base in last year's National League Division Series when that late slide to break up a double play broke the right fibula of New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada.
This spring, Major League Baseball clarified what defines a legal slide into second as an apparent reaction to the Utley play in the playoffs. His two-game suspension was also overturned this spring.
Utley declined to acknowledge any criticism of his slide Monday. He was asked if he is an easy target now in the wake of his slide last year.
"Yeah, I tried to take away the throwing lane (Monday), that's about it," he said.
Utley shrugged his shoulders and did not answer when asked if he felt responding to critics of his most recent slide was not worth his time.