When Utley flew to the Phillies' spring-training complex on Friday, the team said that he was just working out and wasn't beginning an official rehab assignment. Manuel said that Utley, who was cleared to start swinging a bat only 4 days ago, wasn't yet "airing it out."
But the next night he was in the lineup for his first rehab start.
Utley is scheduled to play another seven-inning game today, and perhaps later get some at-bats as a designated hitter in the nightcap of a doubleheader.
The Phillies' front office has been tight-lipped about its expectation for Utley's return.
"We're just going to re-evaluate him after the games tomorrow and we'll go from there," assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said yesterday. "It's a day-to-day type thing. He's going to have to tell us he's feeling good and ready and all that, and that won't happen until after he's done playing."
Manuel was more expansive about his expectations, saying he thought odds were in favor of Utley returning tomorrow.
"I'd say it's a probability," the manager said. "We'll see where he's at. I think he'll kind of let us know. I trust him and I've talked about things like this a lot, so I trust him and I definitely think he'll be very truthful to us."
Howard, on the other hand, probably won't be ready tomorrow when he is eligible to return from the disabled list.
"He's making progress, but I don't think we're looking at [tomorrow] as the day he's going to come back," Proefrock said. "I would imagine he's probably going to need to go on some kind of a rehab and at this point he's not even ready to do that . . . "
Howard has been optimistic due to the hitting and fielding work he has done. But Manuel said Howard's sprained left ankle was sore yesterday.
"He did a lot of work on his ankle," Manuel said. "And also, he's not used to having his ankle taped. That's something you have to get used to. When he works out real good, he was doing fine, but then when he sits down, it gets sore. It can get pretty sore, too. I noticed him last night when we got back to the hotel and we got off the bus, he was limping some."
It is shaping up to be an interesting four-game home series against Houston next week. Assuming the Astros' rotation remains in its current order, the Phillies will face two former teammates, righthander Brett Myers on Monday (Cole Hamels is on track to face him) and lefthander J.A. Happ on Wednesday (Kyle Kendrick would face him). Roy Oswalt, meanwhile, is on track to face his former Astros teammates on Thursday.
The Phillies will miss another former teammate, righthander Nelson Figueroa, who is scheduled to start for the Astros the night after they leave Philadelphia.
Pitching matchups for the three-game series with the Giants that begins tomorrow: Barry Zito (8-6, 3.44) vs. Oswalt (7-13, 3.44); Matt Cain (9-9, 3.11) vs. Joe Blanton (4-6, 5.69); Jonathan Sanchez (8-6, 3.60) vs. Hamels (7-9, 3.33).
Ross Gload, who suffered a strained groin while running the bases in a win over the Dodgers on Wednesday, was sidelined for a fourth straight game. The Phillies still have no immediate plans to place him on the disabled list, although they would have that option if he is still out of commission and the Phillies need to open a roster spot for the return of Howard or Utley.
"That's a possibility," Manuel said, "but we'll see when we start getting Utley and Howard back. That could be something that we might do or something if he's not ready to go."