Chase Utley beginning rehab assignment with Clearwater Threshers

Posted: June 12, 2012

Chase Utley's rehab clock officially starts ticking at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The Phillies announced Monday that their second baseman will begin his minor-league rehabilitation assignment when the single-A Clearwater Threshers play the Tampa Yankees on Tuesday night at Bright House Field. Utley will be Clearwater's designated hitter.

Utley, out since the start of the season because of chronic soreness in both his knees, begins his rehab assignment nine days after he went to Clearwater and played in two extended spring-training games over a three-day period.

He had five hits, including two home runs, in the two extended games, but he did not play second base in either game. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said he is comfortable with Utley's rehab beginning now, even though he has yet to play second base in a game.

"Yeah, because he's taking ground balls and feeling a little bit better each day," Amaro said. "If he has a setback, he has a setback. But right now he feels good enough to start. He'll start off as a DH, and obviously he'll progress to the field at some point."

A minor-league rehab assignment can last up to 20 days for a position player, which means Utley can play until July 1 at various Phillies minor-league levels before rejoining the team. He can also return sooner than that. If he were to experience a setback during the rehab assignment, the clock can be stopped.

Utley played only at single-A Clearwater during his minor-league rehab last season, and it's possible the same scenario will play out again this year. Amaro is more concerned with the amount of work the second baseman gets than where he gets it.

"He's got to get enough defensive innings where he's comfortable physically and has a rhythm in the field," Amaro said. "He also needs enough at-bats to be comfortable and in a rhythm at the plate. I'm glad he's started. And unless there is an issue, he should be able to help us in the early part of July."

If Utley's rehab lasts the entire 20 days without a setback, he would return July 3 against the Mets in New York.

The general manager has also been encouraged by Ryan Howard's progress in Clearwater, where the first baseman is trying to build enough strength in his left leg to return from Achilles tendon surgery and the infection that shut him down during spring training.

"He doesn't have the explosive moves necessary to run the bases, but he is running and fielding and doing all the necessary baseball stuff that will get him back on the field," Amaro said.

"It's going to be a long, long time until he's 100-percent back. That [strength] might not be [100 percent] before this year is over, but he's going to gain enough strength over the next several weeks to be a productive player."

Polanco close to returning. Amaro said third baseman Placido Polanco visited hand specialist Randall Culp Monday and received a positive report on his injured left wrist and cut left index finger. Polanco, who was given a cortisone injection Friday, took batting practice at Citizens Bank Park before flying to Minnesota, where the Phillies open a three-game series with the Twins Tuesday.

Polanco suffered the wrist and finger injuries June 5 against the Dodgers.

Phils sign top draft pick. Righthander Shane Watson, the Phillies' first overall draft pick last week, has signed with the team and will be in Philadelphia next week before going to Clearwater to begin his professional career.

Watson, a high school pitcher from Lakewood, Calif., was the 40th overall pick in the draft. Assistant general manager Marti Wolever said the team is also close to completing a deal with righthander Mitch Gueller, who was the team's second pick. Gueller, a high school pitcher from the state of Washington, told his local newspaper, the Kitsap Sun, that he had agreed to terms on a deal that will pay him a $940,000 signing bonus.

Wolever said the Phillies have also signed second-round pick Dylan Cozens, a power-hitting high school outfielder from Arizona and fifth-round selection Andrew Pullin, a high school outfielder from the state of Washington. Third-round pick Zachary Green, a high school infielder from Rocklin, Calif., and second-rounder Michael Rash, a high school pitcher from Iowa, were also close to agreements with the Phillies, according to Wolever.


Contact Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com or @brookob on Twitter.

 

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