Tigers' Inge says Phillies' Utley faces painful choices

Brandon Inge 's patellar tendinitis dramatically hurt his second-half performance with the Tigers in 2009.
Brandon Inge 's patellar tendinitis dramatically hurt his second-half performance with the Tigers in 2009.
Posted: March 10, 2011

LAKELAND, Fla. - If you want to know why the Phillies and Chase Utley have decided that surgery should be the last option for the injured right knee that has confined him to batting practice so far this spring training, Detroit Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge probably has the best answer.

"If he has surgery now, he'll be done for the year," Inge said Wednesday before his team played the Phillies in an exhibition game at Joker Marchant Stadium.

Inge is not a doctor, and he does not pretend to be one. But he knows plenty about patellar tendinitis and chondromalacia, the new term given to Utley's condition in a statement released by Phillies team physician Michael Ciccotti.

In fact, Inge said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel asked him to call Utley to discuss his experience of playing through the pain of patellar tendinitis during the 2009 season.

Two years ago in spring training, Inge developed soreness in his left knee, and it grew worse as he continued to play.

"I just had to learn to deal with it. Otherwise I knew I was going to miss the whole year," Inge said. "About a month before the all-star break, it was terrible."

Inge hit .268 with 21 home runs and 58 RBIs before the all-star break in 2009 and just .186 with six home runs and 26 RBIs after the break.

With the Tigers in the midst of a divisional race with the Minnesota Twins, Inge decided he had no choice but to continue playing.

"The pain that is associated with it is not fun," Inge said. "If I was standing straight up it was fine, and it's fine until you get into a slight bend, and everything we do as athletes is bending. And the entire time that you're bending your leg, it feels like someone is stabbing you with a knife."

Utley, bothered by the injury since the start of spring training, got a cortisone injection Friday in an attempt to alleviate the pain, but he felt no improvement. That news did not surprise Inge. He said the only thing that helped him was something called a glucose injection, and he suggested that may be Utley's best chance to play through pain this season.

"You have two options: You either get it taken care of now and you're going to miss the season, or you're going to have to really, really suck it up and play through pain," Inge said. "Maybe if you give it a glucose injection and give it some time - give it a month - then maybe it will help. But I didn't have the luxury of doing that."

Inge is cut from the same cloth as Utley when it comes to playing in pain. But after the 2009 season, he did undergo surgery in early November to correct the problem. He does not paint a pretty picture about the surgery, either.

"Surgery was frustrating . . . because the recovery is slow," Inge said. "In the beginning part, it's painful. They don't just do arthroscopic surgery. They open you up."

Inge proceeded to use pen and paper to describe the surgery, explaining that they cut the kneecap down the middle before they drill three holes. He lifted his pant leg to reveal a five-inch scar. Inge said he felt better this year but added that he did not know if Utley will ever be the same.

"I wish I had better news, and I hope the best for him," Inge said.

Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or bbrookover@phillynews.com.


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