With opening day nearing for Phillies, Utley and Howard largely inactive

has yet to appear in a spring training game for the Phils. Though he takes batting practice, he's been kept out of infield drills.
has yet to appear in a spring training game for the Phils. Though he takes batting practice, he's been kept out of infield drills. (Second baseman Chase Utley)
Posted: March 10, 2012

LAKELAND, Fla. - Sam Perlozzo is waiting for Chase Utley. But the Phillies are deferring to their second baseman, saying he knows his body best. When he is ready to test his chronically injured right knee with regular activity, he will inform everyone.

But right now, there are no secret drills on back fields with Utley and Perlozzo, the team's first-base coach and infield coordinator. Utley has mostly stayed off his feet, but all parties involved say this is by design.

"He's not a guy you go bug," Perlozzo said. "He'll find you."

The right side of the Phillies' starting infield remains largely inactive with less than four weeks to go before opening day.

Ryan Howard will wear a walking boot for at least another week and "maybe longer," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Friday. And Utley is barely participating in infield drills and has yet to play in a game.

Howard is no longer dealing with an infection, but the wound where two surgeries have been performed since he ruptured his Achilles tendon is still healing. He has not participated in a team workout in two weeks. The team's original timetable for a May return is obviously inoperative given this lengthy setback.

"We're just being really cautious with it," Amaro said. "The wound itself has to heal."

Manager Charlie Manuel said he hasn't spoken to Howard since he left camp. The first baseman reported to camp heavier than his usual playing weight, and conditioning has been a challenge.

"He's not doing a lot right now because he's in a boot," Amaro said.

Utley has been elusive during workouts. He has taken regular batting practice with his teammates but rarely completed infield work. Amaro does expect Utley, who is attempting to manage the injured knee, to play at some point this spring.

Amaro said he spoke with Charlie Manuel, and the two agreed Utley needs about 30 to 40 at-bats to prepare for the season. With minor-league games beginning Monday, the team can use the loose rules there to squeeze Utley into more action in a short period.

"We can get him as many at-bats as we want," Amaro said.

The GM said the decision to go slowly with Utley was made jointly by the club, doctors, and player.

Perlozzo said he worked with Utley on a limited basis during the initial days of camp. They did a few drills that forced Utley to move laterally but nothing overly strenuous.

"We want to go really slow and be ready for the last 10 days, for sure," Perlozzo said.

And while the Phillies would prefer to have Utley up to speed with his teammates, this is something they will accept.

"If it was anybody else," Perlozzo said, "I'd be concerned."

Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @magelb.

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