Phillies Notes: Utley's workout called 'good sign'

Chase Utley has been sidelined for an indefinite period with chronic pain in his right knee. (David Maialetti/Staff file photo)
Chase Utley has been sidelined for an indefinite period with chronic pain in his right knee. (David Maialetti/Staff file photo)
Posted: May 02, 2011

The progressions of Chase Utley's recovery have been measured in accomplishing simple baseball tasks made difficult by a bad right knee. Sunday brought another milestone: Utley played in a "semi-simulated" game, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said.

It marks a key step in Utley's return from patellar tendinitis. The second baseman saw breaking balls (thrown by pitching coach Rich Dubee) for the first time since the beginning of spring training. Utley then ran the bases and also took grounders at second base. To simulate a game, he sat in the dugout in between "innings" for a few minutes.

This all happened for about three innings with Charlie Manuel and a number of Phillies officials watching.

"This is a good sign," Amaro said.

The Phillies and Utley will not know how good until Monday, when he will feel some of the aftereffects of increased activity. But if those pains are minimal, the plan is for Utley to play another simulated game Tuesday.

Everyone involved has been reluctant to put any sort of timetable on a return, but Amaro did not rule out Utley's being able to go to Florida by the end of the week to begin playing in minor-league games.

"I guess it's possible," Amaro said. "But we're not putting any time lines on it because it is literally still a day-to-day thing."

Utley was unavailable for comment. The repetition and increased workload suggest he is close to rehab-game readiness.

That does not mean Utley will return after three minor-league games, as he has from injuries in the past. This rehab will require a prolonged stint to see live pitching, since Utley has not played in an actual game since Oct. 23, 2010 - Game 6 of the National League Championship Series.

"It's different because he hasn't really gone through spring training," Amaro said. "He hasn't had any live at-bats. He's hitting here every day, but that's different."

The Phillies will not know how long Utley needs in the minors until he starts playing in games. They will not know how much this condition will need to be managed when he returns. And they will not know exactly which caliber Utley they have until he actually plays.

"A lot of it," Manuel said, "I'll leave up to him."

Amaro could not say if Utley is currently pain-free during his workouts. The Phillies have taken slow progressions based upon Utley's response.

"He says he feels OK," Amaro said. "That's OK for me."

Oswalt will miss start

Still in Mississippi tending to damage to his in-laws' house caused by a tornado, Roy Oswalt will not return to the team for his scheduled start Tuesday.

Amaro said the Phillies expect Oswalt back Thursday, meaning the earliest he could start a game is Saturday.

Given the timing of the schedule, skipping Oswalt does not have a real effect. With an off-day Monday, everyone in the rotation will be bumped up a day. Cole Hamels starts Tuesday - still with an extra day of rest because of last Thursday's day off. Vance Worley and Roy Halladay will follow, both on regular rest.

Extra bases

Joe Blanton (right elbow impingement) is scheduled to throw Tuesday off flat ground. . . . J.C. Romero (strained right calf) threw a bullpen session and did some fielding practice without a problem. He will go to single-A Lakewood on Tuesday for a rehab game and could return as early as Wednesday. . . . Carlos Ruiz (sore back) is feeling better but not game-ready. Amaro is hoping he is healthy Tuesday, but Dane Sardinha will likely stick around for a few more days until Romero is activated. . . . Minor-league shortstop Brian Bocock (fractured wrist) was activated from the disabled list and optioned to triple-A Lehigh Valley.

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