The time is finally here.
After playing in two extended spring training games last week, Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley will begin his rehab assignment Tuesday in High-A Clearwater. So far Utley has missed the team’s first 62 games. With some hope, and a pair of pain-free knees, he may be able to make it back for the last 80.
Utley is expected to start out as the designated hitter before testing his chronic knees in the field. He can play as many as 20 games while on assignment and it looks as if the Phils are going to try and get him as many at-bats as possible.
When asked last week about his feelings on the positive reports of Utley’s progression, manager Charlie Manuel was quick to point out that he hadn’t even really played yet.
“I think (the return of Ryan Howard and Utley) is going to help us,” said Manuel. “But I also feel like we have to have all of those guys back (including Roy Halladay, Michael Stutes and Laynce Nix).
“Those guys got in the game, but they didn’t play. They just hit. There is a big difference in that.”
Hitting hasn’t been the problem for Utley. He recorded five hits, including two homeruns, in his two extended games. The trouble has come in the field with the acts of squatting and making quick, lateral movements. There have been talks about Utley playing at first base upon his return to hopefully lessen the load on his knees, but the injury status of Freddy Galvis will probably play a big role in that.
If everything goes right for Utley and he experiences no setbacks, he could be activated as late as July 2. Regardless, it is nice to know that something is at least going in the right direction for the Phillies.