Phillies Notes: Timetable for Utley's return? 'Pretty soon'

to make his spring debut soon, but the club won't set a specific date. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
to make his spring debut soon, but the club won't set a specific date. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer (Chase Utley is expected)
Posted: March 15, 2012

CLEARWATER, Fla. - There remains no concrete date for when Chase Utley will make his spring debut, but all indications are the Phillies second baseman will be on the field in a matter of days.

Utley participated in batting practice before Wednesday's 6-4 loss to Minnesota, and manager Charlie Manuel revealed Utley is closer to taking the field.

"I'd say it's coming up pretty soon," Manuel said. "It's going to be a few days yet, but then he'll start pushing his workouts up."

Utley's chronic knee problems forced both him and the Phillies to adopt a different training program for the spring as they attempt to manage the injury, which will bother him as long as he plays baseball. Even then, as Utley's plan has been shrouded in secrecy, its existence has been questioned publicly.

But all along, team officials and coaches have maintained that the target for Utley's workouts to intensify was the final 10 to 15 days of the spring. The Phillies train for 18 more days in Florida.

Manuel suggested Utley would face some live pitching, possibly in batting practice or as a designated hitter in a minor-league game.

"He's going to get going here pretty soon," Manuel said.

Halladay hit

After Roy Halladay threw Josh Willingham a change-up that had no action and was mashed for a solo home run in the first inning Wednesday, he realized he had no feel for the pitch.

So he went to find catcher Carlos Ruiz on the bench.

"I told Chooch, 'Keep calling it as much as you can,' " Halladay said. "See if we can figure out how it feels when it's off. We have some ideas and things I can play with in my next bullpen."

Halladay failed to complete three innings and needed 70 pitches for eight outs. Minnesota scored five times off him in a 6-5 Phillies loss. Later, Halladay said his consistency was not what he demands of himself. But, after all, there are still more than two weeks until Halladay will begin the season with a start in Pittsburgh.

"I'm going to use the entire spring training to get ready," Halladay said. "I feel like we're getting closer. Mechanically things are better. It's just the consistency of executing pitches. It's ultimately what I need to improve on the most."

At 66 pitches, Rich Dubee came to the mound to ask Halladay if he wanted to continue. Halladay was hoping for a quick out, so he said yes. Then he issued a four-pitch walk to Ryan Doumit and his day was over.

"I was pretty gassed at that point," Halladay said.

"I don't know if it's the weather or where we're at," Dubee said, "but he doesn't have a feel for his change-up yet. It's spring training."

First cuts

The Phillies made their first nine cuts of spring training, and there were no surprises.

Righthanders Dave Bush, Austin Hyatt and B.J. Rosenberg and lefthander Pat Misch were reassigned to minor-league camp. Infielders Harold Garcia and Cesar Hernandez, outfielder Tyson Gillies, catcher Sebastian Valle, and righthander J.C. Ramirez were optioned to minor-league camp.

Garcia was also outrighted off the 40-man roster. The 25-year-old Venezuelan will miss most of the season after microfracture surgery on his right knee. He missed almost all of 2011 with a torn ACL.

The Phillies' 40-man roster now stands at 38 players.

Extra bases

The Phillies have a split-squad day Thursday. Joe Blanton starts in Clearwater against Atlanta, while Joel Pineiro pitches in Port Charlotte against Tampa Bay. . . . Dontrelle Willis is scheduled to make his first appearance in eight days during Thursday's game against Atlanta. . . . Jose Contreras will throw 25 pitches in another minor-league game Thursday.

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