Phillies Notes: Phillies' Utley making gradual progress

Posted: April 24, 2011

SAN DIEGO - Besides Scott Sheridan, the Phillies' head athletic trainer, the man working closest with Chase Utley during his nebulous rehab process is Sam Perlozzo.

The first-base coach and infield coordinator is the one who intently watches Utley as he participates in fielding drills on his chronically pained right knee. On some days, he'll watch the second baseman do his running exercises and hit a few extra grounders to him.

"One day you think he's close," Perlozzo said, his voice trailing off. He did not complete the sentence.

Utley has shown progress, no doubt. He has gone from not running to running, and that was the biggest step yet. But the repetitions increase gradually. He is taking Saturday and Sunday off from doing anything intensive.

This remains a process.

"He's the same," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Saturday.

On the final day of spring training, Amaro was asked whether Utley could be a candidate for the 60-day disabled list. That was March 28, and Amaro emphatically said no.

Nearly a month later, Amaro still believes Utley can return before June. Still, that belief isn't based on anything scientific.

"I'm hopeful," Amaro said. "I don't know if it's going to happen, but I'm hopeful. I can only hope."

Perlozzo said Utley has responded well to the increased activity. There is more side-to-side movement when fielding ground balls and less resistance to move.

"As far as I can see, things are moving forward," Perlozzo said.

But, as Amaro noted, Utley is not running every day. That is the best sign that he is not close to going on an official rehab assignment.

Utley has remained mostly quiet throughout the process, because he says there is not much to talk about. In spring training, the Phillies emphasized the need to be patient with the patellar tendinitis, bone inflammation, and chondromalacia in his right knee. So far, Utley has done that.

"He seems in better spirits," Perlozzo said. "He has a little more bounce in his step."

Polanco rests

Until Saturday, Placido Polanco had played in every inning in each of the Phillies' first 19 games. He finally sat Saturday as Charlie Manuel inserted Pete Orr at second base and shifted Wilson Valdez to third.

"It was time to give him a blow," Manuel said.

The decision was not easy, considering Polanco has been the best hitter in a lineup that is not hitting. Entering Saturday, Polanco led the team with a .359 batting average and a .419 on-base percentage. With 15 RBIs, he is second only to Ryan Howard.

"It makes it tough" to sit him, Manuel said.

He chose Saturday because Polanco had never seen Padres starter Tim Stauffer. He would rather rest him against a righty with lefthander Wade LeBlanc going for San Diego in the series finale Sunday.

Thursday was the one-year anniversary of Polanco's being hit by a Tim Hudson pitch, causing bone spurs in his elbow to become painful. He has shown no ill effects from offseason surgery in 2011.

Extra bases

Lefthander J.C. Romero (right calf strain) stayed in Philadelphia to rehabilitate. Amaro said the team still believes Romero will miss only two weeks. . . . Domonic Brown (broken hand) will continue to play in extended spring training this week, and the Phillies could send him on his official rehab assignment by the weekend. "He's getting closer," Amaro said. . . . Roy Halladay will start Sunday. Calling balls and strikes will be Mike DiMuro, the umpire who was behind home plate for Halladay's perfect game last May. . . . John Mayberry Jr. likely will start for Raul Ibanez in left field in the series finale.

Contact staff writer Matt Gelb

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