What Amaro says matters much less than what Amaro does, however. Was he fooled into thinking Utley would be ready to go on opening day? If the signing of Ty Wigginton was more about second base than first, it still seems like a patch rather than a potential replacement for Utley. The gospel of Freddy Galvis, which all in pinstripes suddenly are preaching, sure was written hastily.
If Galvis and Wigginton hold it all together and Utley returns to play most of the season, then fine. Amaro and the Phillies will be OK.
If Amaro is able to make another move - Joe Blanton for a veteran infielder, say - then he will be covered.
If none of that happens, then it will be more than fair to wonder why Amaro splurged on Jonathan Papelbon instead of addressing the huge holes in the middle of his lineup (and the right side of his infield).
It is usually a bad sign when a team is relying on a lot of "ifs" to go its way. At this point, though, the one set of ifs - Galvis seizing the moment, Wigginton providing some offense, production from the likes of Scott Podsednik, John Mayberry Jr., and Laynce Nix - has at least as much chance of going right as the set that has Howard and Utley returning to form.
This is where Amaro's track record of aggressiveness pays off for him. Why would the man who got Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Hunter Pence suddenly become timid? Every move to this point has been about maximizing the team's chance to win another title while the current window is open.
Based on what we know from his words and actions, Utley appears motivated by the same urgency. There is a chance to win right now, and he seems willing to sacrifice the long term to be part of it. That approach may be backfiring, and not just with Utley.
Last summer, Ryan Howard played despite constant pain in his heel. He had cortisone injections to stay on the field during the 102-win season. Doctors will tell you that cortisone injections relieve pain but can weaken tendons. Lo and behold, Howard's Achilles tendon snapped on the very last play of the season, costing him an as-yet-unknown chunk of this season.
Asked about that connection at the start of spring training, Howard said, basically, that it was too late to worry about that now.
Except that it isn't. Not for Utley.
Last year, the Phillies asked Detroit infielder Brandon Inge to talk to Utley about his experience with patellar tendinitis. In November of 2009, Inge had surgery to remove the inflamed parts of his patellar tendons. He was on crutches for six weeks, but he played 144 games in 2010. In 2011, Inge hit just .197 at the big-league level and agreed to spend part of the season in triple A.
Did his offensive drop-off mean the knee surgeries didn't solve his problems? Or was Inge just never the hitter Utley is, or was? This spring, to improve his chances to make the Tigers roster after Miguel Cabrera moved to third base, Inge has switched to second. Utley's position.
Inge reportedly has played very well at second. That's significant because fielding, with its sudden motions and shifts in direction, is the part of the game that causes Utley the most trouble. If Inge's knees are fine now, would Utley's be fine if he'd had surgery as soon as possible?
There's no knowing. Everyone's condition and prognosis is different. Amaro also suggested that Utley is suffering from a lack of cartilage in his knees. That's a different problem and the most advanced procedure, microfracture surgery, would mean missing an entire year.
So we're looking at two separate, but related, issues: Is Utley making the best decisions for himself and, secondarily, for the team? And has Amaro planned well enough for the consequences of Utley's condition and medical decisions?
We're all about to find out the hard way.
Contact Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Sheridanscribe on Twitter.
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