Phillies Notes: Utley to sit Thursday, according to plan

Posted: June 28, 2012

Chase Utley made his return at second base for the Phillies on Wednesday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

He will not be back in the lineup Thursday afternoon for the series finale.

That's all part of manager Charlie Manuel's proceed-with-caution plan as Utley returns from his long rehab designed to strengthen his chronically sore knees.

"He will not play [Thursday]," Manuel said. "He'll play the following day" against the Marlins in Miami.

"He and I talked, and we'll try two on and one off before the all-star break. I want to keep it to where he feels as good as possible every day until the point where we can turn him loose."

Manuel practiced a similar lineup routine with Utley when he returned from the disabled list last season, but eventually the second baseman started playing almost daily. Manuel believes that time will come again at some point this season, too.

"I think him and I definitely communicate with each other," Manuel said. "I trust him a lot, and he's a tough player. He might need a blow some day, but I don't expect him to come around and say, "Charlie, I can't play today.' I think he might throw me a line and let me run with it."

Manuel said Utley would be available as a pinch-hitter on the days he is not playing.

Despite Utley's return, Carlos Ruiz remained in the cleanup spot in the order and Hunter Pence moved from third to fifth with Shane Victorino also dropping a spot to sixth.

"I like the way [Ruiz] has been consistent making contact," Manuel said. "He's hitting .360. I like him hitting first cleanup, not second cleanup."

That's a reference to when Ruiz used to hit eighth, but the catcher carried a major-league best .361 average into Wednesday night's game and combined with Utley for back-to-back home runs in the first inning off Pirates righthander James McDonald, who had allowed just four home runs in 14 starts this season.

Howard cleared

Ryan Howard rejoined the Phillies on Wednesday after having been in Clearwater, Fla., for nearly two months rehabilitating his surgically repaired left Achilles tendon. After a series of tests on the field before the game and an examination by team physician Michael Ciccotti, he was cleared to begin a rehab assignment Thursday with single-A Lakewood, N.J. He will be the designated hitter in that game.

Howard said he still needed to rebuild strength in his calf, and he's not sure that it will be 100 percent this season.

"Maybe not until next year," he said. "But you know, it's 80, 85 percent. The only thing I can do is give you 100 percent of 85 percent."

Extra bases

Roy Halladay (shoulder) continued to throw off flat ground from 120 feet, and assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said he could go through a bullpen session within the next week. . . . Reliever Michael Stutes underwent shoulder surgery Tuesday. Proefrock said he would not throw for 12 weeks, which means his season is likely over. . . . Laynce Nix (calf) continues to rehab in Clearwater. "He's feeling a little better," Proefrock said. "There is still a little tightness, but hopefully he'll continue to make progress and we can get him out on a rehab assignment in the next week to 10 days or so." . . . Triple-A outfielder Domonic Brown (knee) is expected to miss another two to three weeks.

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