Chase Utley just spoke with reporters. It is the first time he has talked at length about his chronic knee pain since March 9.
He said he has made some progress, but offered no timetable for his return, although he said his goal is to be back before the All-Star break. Ruben Amaro Jr. later said they have no plans to plan him on the 60-day disabled list, which could be encouraging.
Here is some of what Utley said:
Q: Have you improved at all?
A: Yeah, over the past few weeks I think we have made some progress for obviously the good. We’re going to continue to stay on top of what we’ve been doing. I’m optimistic at this point we’re going to continue doing what we’re doing and go from there.
Q: Are you close to running? Are you close to taking grounders?
A: Yeah, I’ve started to take some light ground balls the past few days. And that’s definitely a positive. We haven’t started running yet. We’re going to kind of let my body dictate how it’s going and make progressions from there. I think at this point we want to take steps forward and not backward, and so far we’re doing that.
I’ve been blog-less since Friday morning because of a conversion to new blog software. But the conversion didn’t work as planned, which left me unable to post. I apologize for that. But we went back to the old software for the next 24 hours or so, which should allow me to post through tomorrow’s Grapefruit League finale at Bright House Field.
I want to mention a few things before the Zo Zone goes dark again:
The Phillies have not named a closer to replace Brad Lidge, but my guess is Jose Contreras gets the nod. Why? It’s just the feeling I get from being in camp the past few days. Rich Dubee also sounds like he wants to keep Madson in the eighth inning, where he has thrived. I asked Dubee yesterday if he thought Madson was better prepared to close this season than previous seasons.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “Ryan Madson is Ryan Madson. What did he do? Take a crash course in how to close? We’re in Spring Training here. … I think the game speeds up on him sometimes. He doesn’t get to the same comfort level. There’s a little anxiety there. The ninth inning is a little different than the eighth. There have been a solid eighth-inning guys that haven’t been able to pitch the ninth. One day they learn how to do it.”
More bad news from Clearwater.
Brad Lidge will open the season on the DL because of pain in his right shoulder. He will be examined tomorrow by team physician Michael Ciccotti. He will receive a MRI exam next week in Philadelphia. Lidge said he is hopeful he could return by mid-April, but for the moment Ryan Madson or Jose Contreras will be closing games.
Here is what he said:
Q: How did you feel yesterday?
A: It didn’t feel great. I still have some lingering issues with my shoulder. Experienced some post-shoulder discomfort in the back a little bit. Which is a little different from biceps tendinitis, but I think it probably relates a little bit. Either way, it didn’t go the way we were hoping basically trying to bump up from the percentage I was throwing at, which was hard to say exactly, but 85, 86, 87 mph range. Trying to get to the next step. Wasn’t ready yet. We’re going to have to take a little more time off and start back up again and hopefully give it a little more time to recover this time it’ll get us where we need to go.
Q: What does that do for Opening Day?
A: Opening Day I won’t be ready, based on what they’re telling me. Because we’re going to have to rest it for a while. It’s kind of up to them how long they want to rest it for. Then after that … get it examined. Dr. Ciccotti is going to look at it more tomorrow, determine to get a MRI or not. Then after that we’ll start picking it up based on what he says. But right now that’s kind of all I know. I’m still experiencing some discomfort in there, so we’re going to get more analysis.
Phillies coaches and front office personnel meet every morning at Bright House Field to discuss players and other happenings in camp.
But this morning they presented a gas can to assistant general manager Scott Proefrock.
Front office officials make every Grapefruit League road game. They typically alternate driving, and Proefrock drove his rental car yesterday to Port Charlotte, which is roughly 1 hour, 40 minutes from Clearwater. He had Phillies president David Montgomery, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., pro scouting director Mike Ondo and Jesse Rendell, the son of former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, in the car.
Proefrock had been making great time to Port Charlotte … until the car ran out of gas roughly 20 miles from Charlotte Sports Park.
He called AAA for help. The group finally arrived to the game in the fifth inning.
“I’m more than willing to do a PSA for AAA this year,” Proefrock said.
“That was a first,” Amaro said.
The group happily made it back to Clearwater without running out of gas, although the Phillies’ official pregame notes said Proefrock asked for $1 to pay a toll because he does not have Sun Pass.
Do the math and it is obvious he will open the season on the disabled list.
Ruben Amaro Jr. essentially said so before today’s game against the Twins at Bright House Field.
“I would think so,” said Amaro, asked if he expects Utley to open the season on the DL. “We haven’t seen him on the field yet and we’re a week away. It’s likely he’s not going to be making our club, at least not right now.”
Amaro said Utley will accompany the team to Philadelphia on Monday.
Is he improving?
“Nothing new,” Amaro said. “I think he feels better. We’ll see. It’s kind of a long term process. It’s not going to happen overnight.”
Utley has not said much about his chronic knee pain since March 9, although he said last week he is “moving in the right direction.”
My guess? And this is just a guess based on the fact he has been off the knee since last month and has seen little improvement – there are no indications he is close to running or taking fielding practice anytime soon – Utley returns sometime in June. But if there’s one player who could surprise it’s Utley.
Roy Oswalt got hit behind the right ear by a line drive yesterday in Port Charlotte. He spoke to reporters this morning at Bright House Field. He seemed to be in good spirits. The right side of his neck is swollen, but other than that looked fine.
Here is some of what he said:
Q: How do you feel? How did you sleep last night?
A: I actually slept pretty well. I’m a little bit stiff this morning, but overall I’m OK.
Q: Did you have any time to react?
A: Yeah. He didn’t hit it the best he could hit it. I saw it a little bit out in front of me. I thought it was going to go above me, and that’s why I tried to duck. But it had a little bit of top spin or something on it. The ball kind of tracked me.
Q: The neck looks swollen. It’s just stiff? It’s not painful or anything?
A: Just stiff.
Q: No headaches?
A: No. Last night a little bit, but not too bad.
Q: Are you going to have concussion tests?
A: I don’t know. We did a CT scan yesterday and it looked good.
Q: Have you ever had anything like that happen?
A: I’ve been hit a bunch, but not in the head. That’s the first time it got close.
Manny Ramirez hit Oswalt just behind his right ear with a line drive in the fourth inning. Oswalt tumbled to the turf, coming to rest on his back. Charlie Manuel, Rich Dubee, assistant athletic trainer Mark Andersen and players rushed to his side as they feared the worst for one of their star pitchers.
“Scary,” Dubee said.
The Phillies think Oswalt should be fine. He suffered a bruised neck, but the Phillies said he never lost consciousness or experienced any dizziness. X-rays and a CT scan returned negative, and those who saw him in the clubhouse said he was coherent.
Teammate Brian Schneider drove Oswalt in Oswalt’s truck back to Clearwater.
“It looked bad until you got out there,” Dubee said. “I mean, it was still bad. But he responded well.”
Luis Castillo finally arrived to Bright House Field. He spoke for roughly six minutes this afternoon. He is scheduled to take his physical today.
Here is some of what he said:
Q: Excited to be here?
A: Yeah, man. Anybody would be excited to play for the Phillies. I feel good. I’m happy to be here.
Q: You were supposed to be here yesterday. Yo’ure late. What happened?
A: I had a miscommunication with me and my agent, saying I had to report today. That’s what it was. More important for me, I’m here and I’m excited to be here.
Q: The Phillies said you must earn a job. Is that your understanding?
A: I’m healthy and I feel good. I know I have to prove I’m ready. I’m here to play baseball and help this team win some games.
Ruben Amaro Jr. said Luis Castillo isn’t here today as the Phillies expected because of a “little bit of a miscommunication with his agent.”
The Phillies expected Castillo to report to camp yesterday. Amaro said Castillo thought he needed to report to camp today.
“I was surprised this morning that he didn’t show up,” Amaro said. “It happens. We were a little confused. Evidently, he was confused, too.”
The Phillies had a physican at Bright House Field this morning, waiting to give Castillo a physical. Castillo never showed. Head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan called assistant general manager Scott Proefrock to find out way. Amaro said Castillo, who is driving to Clearwater from somewhere in Florida, is expected to finally arrive in Clearwater later this afternoon. He will take a physical tomorrow morning and is expected to play tomorrow against the Tampa Bay Rays at Port Charlotte.
Amaro said this does not affect Castillo’s chances of making the team or the team’s evaluation process.
“We’ll just have to evaluate him one less day,” Amaro said. “I just talked to him a couple minutes ago. He’s excited to get here. I talked to the agent and I talked to him. He’s looking forward to getting here.”
But if Castillo is leaving a bad situation in New York and is looking for a fresh start with just nine games to make an evaluation, shouldn’t he have made an effort to get to camp as soon as possible?
“I don’t know what happened with he and the Mets,” Amaro said. “That’s not my issue. What I’m concerned about and what I’m worried about is how he handles himself here in our camp as a Phillie.”