Utley Heads to Clearwater

Chase Utley is taking the next step.

He is headed to Clearwater, Fla., where he could play an extended Spring Training game as early as Monday. He hopes to rejoin the Phillies sooner rather than later, but only he knows for sure and Sunday he offered no timetable for his return from a chronically injured left knee that has kept him sidelined since he flied out to deep center field in the ninth inning in Game 5 of the 2011 National League Division Series.

“I don’t have a time frame,” he said during an unexpected announcement in front of his locker following a 5-1 loss to the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. “My whole goal is to feel comfortable and feel like I can contribute on a daily basis. I’m excited. I’m not happy I’m in this position, but I’m excited that I’m feeling better and I have an opportunity to go down and keep working and kind of advance how things are going here.”

Utley’s health has been a mystery since Spring Training. The Phillies said he would be ready to start the season on time, but he stopped participating in fielding practice the second week of camp and instead spent the first month of the season working with a physical therapist in Phoenix. He rejoined the team May 5 with the expectation he would take ground balls for a week or two before heading to Clearwater.

It took longer than expected.

Utley offered an explanation.

“Ground balls, early on, one day it was good, the next day it wasn’t so good,” he said. “Right now on a daily basis they’ve been feeling pretty good. It’s still not perfect yet, but I think we’re getting there. We’re on the verge of getting a lot better. I wanted to take this opportunity to get down there, get some at-bats, kind of get a head start in that aspect.”

Utley can play in extended Spring Training games before he begins an official rehab assignment. There are extended Spring Training games Monday through Wednesday and June 12-14. In between, Utley can play in simulated games or work out with other players in camp, like Ryan Howard and Michael Martinez, but at any point he can begin a rehab assignment.

Once Utley begins to play in rehab games he has 20 days to rejoin the Phillies, unless he suffers a setback or the Phillies simply decide his is not healthy enough to return.

Utley played in just nine rehab games last season before rejoining the team. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said recently he expects Utley to play in more games this time.

“We’ll have to see,” Utley said. “I didn’t swing the bat that great initially last year. My whole goal is to feel comfortable not only in the batter’s box but on the field as well.”

Utley had the worst year of his career offensively since he established himself as the best offensive second baseman in baseball. He hit just .259 with 11 home runs, 44 RBIs and a .769 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 454 plate appearances. But coincidentally or not, the Phillies averaged 3.8 runs per game while he was injured and 4.6 runs per game upon his return to the lineup.

The Phillies would love to see a similar spike this time.

It seems possible Utley and Howard both could return before the All-Star break, perhaps giving the Phillies the boost they need to finally get out of last place in the National League East and make the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.

Utley will DH initially in Clearwater before trying to play in the field.

Playing in the field is the true test.

“My goal is just to feel comfortable and be fairly pain-free,” Utley said. “When you get on the field here, the lights are brighter and the adrenaline flows a little bit more. You can do more things.”

But can Utley ever be truly pain free? Or is this something he will have to play through the remainder of his career?

“My goal is to get it to that point,” he said. “Only time will tell. But right now I feel confident enough to move to the next step. … I felt good for probably the last 10 days or so. Knock on wood hopefully that continues.”

20 Comments

I’ll believe it when I see it. Shot player, IMO.

Yeah. I don’t know why we’re supposed to see this as a positive. It’s just another phase in this doomed experiment.
How is a chronic, degenerative condition supposed to get better?

I have a question. I understand most Phillies fans will hate me for this question. I am a lifelong (41 yrs) Phillies Phan. I preface this question with I am a Chase Utley fan…I appreciate all Utz has done for this team!
Ok here we go:
Is there anyway we can trade Utley to the American League? I don’t think its fair to our Phillies to have to pay what is it 15 million a year for notably increasing missed time?

Here is the solution:

Trade Utley for half value…afterall who is crazy to value him at 15 million?…to an American League team who could use him fulltime as a Designated Hitter!
We get a money, prospects, anything! And Chase gets his money, he gets to play somewhere warm maybe, he gets to play all year!

Is that just crazy talk?

There is no way you can be serious, so I will only respond with LOL

Lol? So we should keep a man who can’t play a position 15 million? So 45 million in 3 years to play maybe 2 years and subpar at that? That’s crazy!

Whatever with Utley, Todd. You should put something here about your conclusion that Halladay’s injury is likely to cost him his lucrative vesting option in 2014. Props to you. You earned your paycheck this week for this revelation.

The two year vesting option is out, but he could still make the other one if he pitches 225 innings in 2013. He’s surpassed that 7 times in his career. I’d prefer he vests the option, as I think he’ll still be a terrific pitcher in 2014 and would probably make more money if he was on the market.

According to Cot’s Halladay has to pitch 225 innings this years and 415 this year and 2013 combined and not be on the DL at the end of 2013. If he doesn’t reach 225 innings this year, it is a moot point as to what he does in 2013. Halladay’s option does not vest without 225 innings this year.

The chubby kid at the Inquirer scooped him on that story.

Chase Utley is untradeable because he would never pass the required physical to make a deal. Face it, he is going nowhere as are the 2012 Phillies. Sorry.

Utley can be tradeable as long as the other team is fully aware of his condition. The physical is key, but can be ignored if the trading team pays for his whole salary and what not. As long the physical does not bring up any new injuries or ailments, then he can be traded. Now, I assume no owner would risk paying 15 mil to have a guy on the 40 man roster and on the 15 day DL. Regardless, he can be traded prior to playing, just who be zany enough to take that risk.

Exactly. Only Ed Wade would make that trade and we already have him back so…. LOL

Wow, the Frillies are really having a rough go of it, huh? Roy’s on holiday(getting old and frayed), Utley is kinda done, huh(he’s got Chipper Jones knees, only problem he is 32 not 40) and the chubby one will never be the same (as I predicted here last year-too fat to last). Imagine the mighty Frils are 4 back of the Marlins and the Nats. WeinusWain is so bored he is trolling the Braves who are in 3rd. So sad, hate to see you guys in such a funk. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of fans(I crack myself up). Hey so how’s trading for all those high priced stars working out for you guys. Everyone is saying you got no gas left in the minor league tank.

and with all that, we’re 3.5 games out. What will happen when Doc comes back, Howard returns to hot weather and fresh, Utley maybe comes back sooner as part time player. Lets see who plays in Oct and who has long vacation again.

Woe is us. 4 games out of a division lead with 60 million on the DL. What’s the Braves excuse?

Thought I’d troll your board, as the Dodgers’ new ownership hasn’t fixed our blog yet. Always a great show when reef shows up in Phillyblogville…awaiting response from mule and 52. Oh yeah, Dodgers win……………………………………………….

Dodger’s ace against our kid in his first start after DL, I’m not concerned thqat you won in 9th by 1 run. BTW, hows your OF these days?

I wasn’t smacking, just stating a fact…Dodgers win…it’s early, but if you want tio play June smack, loved beating your sour-faced closer…

It’s June 5th, kahli. But we’ll always have October. “Into the night….” :-)

great draft (not!). Thought we needed posistion players wh can hit, instead we get 2 pitchers who will take years to (maybe) make the big leagues,

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