Utley Is A Miracle Man, Tuesday Return Likely
The Phillies announced this morning that Utley, who is recovering from surgery on his right thumb, will begin a rehab assignment tonight with Class A Clearwater. He will play five innings in the field.
He will play seven innings Sunday, nine innings in Game 1 of a doubleheader Sunday and nine innings as a DH in Game 2 of the doubleheader. He will be reevaluated then, but if he feels fine he should be back in the lineup Tuesday against the Giants.
Sources said yesterday that Utley, who had surgery July 1, is ahead of schedule and could rejoin the team as early as Tuesday against the San Francisco Giants at Citizens Bank Park. CBSSports.com first reported Utley told teammates he hoped to rejoin the team Tuesday.
Asked last night if Utley could play in a rehab game Saturday with Clearwater, Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said, “It depends how he feels.”
Utley felt fine after swinging a bat Friday in Clearwater, Fla.
Utley tore a ligament in his right thumb June 28 in Cincinnati. He had surgery three days later, and the Phillies estimated it would take him eight weeks to recover, which would have put him back in the lineup around Sept. 1. If Utley returns Tuesday, he would be returning roughly two weeks ahead of schedule.
Utley has been a quick healer in the past. He had hip surgery following the 2008 World Series championship. The Phillies estimated a four-to-six month recovery period, which meant he might not have been back until late May 2009.
Utley was playing in Spring Training games in March and was in the 2009 Opening Day lineup.
Tuesday is realistic because Utley has not needed many games in the past to get ready following an injury. When he missed a month with a broken right hand in 2007, he went 1-for-10 in three rehab games before rejoining the Phillies. He hit .321 with seven doubles, two triples, five home runs, 21 RBIs and a .916 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 32 games to finish the season.
Clearwater plays at home at Bright House Field on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. If Utley needs just three games again, he could play with the Threshers and return to Philadelphia on Tuesday.