Utley speaks, expected back Wednesday
Utley: 'There's no doubt in my mind there's time' for the Phils
Chase Utley is still positive that the Phillies can turn the season around. 6/25/12
Chase Utley said he’s "definitely getting closer" to returning to the Phillies full-time.
On Monday, Utley took batting practice and fielded ground balls at Citizens Bank Park in advance of the Phillies game against Pittsburgh.
Utley is expected to play at Triple A Lehigh Valley on Tuesday. Barring any setbacks, Utley could be activated prior to Wednesday’s game against the Pirates. The second baseman has missed the entire season due to chronic pain in his knees.
“I plan on playing the majority of the game [on Tuesday in Lehigh],” Utley said. “I’m optimistic. I’m encouraged by the way things went down in Clearwater, and I’m excited to get back up here.
“Every day, it seemed like it improved – every single day. Playing defense, it got a little bit better. Running the bases daily, it got better. I’m encouraged by that.”
Utley played eight innings at second base for Single A Clearwater on Saturday. It was the first time he played defense in back-to-back games since the playoffs last October. During his rehab assignment, Utley played nine games in Clearwater, going 5 for 32 (.156) with a homer and five RBI.
“I had some good swings,” Utley said. “Early on, I had some bad swings, which was anticipated. But I’m definitely optimistic on how things went.”
Utley said his legs feel better than they have in years and added that he believes he can be the same hitter he was three or four years ago. The 33-year-old has seen his batting average, home runs, RBI and slugging percentage decline each season since 2008. In 2010 he played 115 games, while last year he appeared in just 103.
When pressed, Utley wouldn’t say he’s pain-free, but he allowed that he’s "in a much better place than I was a month ago" and that he "wouldn’t be out there" if he felt uncomfortable. When asked if there was a plan for how often he’d play once returning to the Phillies, Utley said he’d have to “sit down and talk about it” with Charlie Manuel.
“I want to be smart about this for the long haul,” Utley said. “The more repetitions you get game-wise, the more comfortable I’ll become. Pain-free is obviously ideal, but the more I’m out there, I think the better I’ll be.”
Before the interview ended, Utley was asked whether he would be physically able to play five or six days a week after being activated.
“No doubt,” he said.E-mail John Gonzalez at firstname.lastname@example.org