While there, University of San Francisco baseball coaches hit 50 to 80 ground balls daily at the 34-year-old Phillies second baseman. They also threw batting practice.
"I really appreciated that," Utley said Friday.
If this works, so will the Phillies. Utley, beset by chronically bad knees, did not stop playing baseball. He began trips to campus one week after the Phillies floundered to the end of an 81-81 season. The active plan was devised with input from Phillies head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan and various unnamed doctors Utley has consulted.
"We wanted to put something together that worked," Utley said. "And when you have a plan that's worked for so long and all of a sudden doesn't work, you wonder why that is. It took me a year and a half to figure that out, unfortunately."
The words of this spring training sound just like the previous two. Utley and the Phillies say they are optimistic he can play a full season. It is different this time, Utley said, because he was training for baseball and not just to reduce the pressure on his knees.
His future is no less certain. Utley is a free agent at season's end. A player known as one of the game's hardest workers must prove to the baseball world there is untapped life beyond 2013.
"I enjoy this game," Utley said. "I feel I have a lot to still do in this game. So who knows? I'd like to play more than this year. That's for sure."
Utley acknowledged he must manage his knees for the remainder of his playing career, however long it is. He said he felt stronger as a hitter in 2012. Data supports that; Utley nearly doubled his 2011 line-drive rate in 2012.
There is still doubt, no matter how positive the language is. Last spring, two days before Utley left camp to visit a specialist when his progress stagnated, the second baseman said, "Today I felt pretty good."
On Friday, he said the same thing, and punctuated it.
"I feel pretty damn good right now," Utley said.
In each of the last two springs, the Phillies have maintained Utley would see Grapefruit League action only for days to pass without activity. They are adamant he will see the field this time. But Manuel said Utley likely will not play on consecutive days, at least in the beginning of the spring schedule.
The manager is hopeful Utley can play 140 games based upon last season's workload. Utley missed the first 76 games but started in 81 of the final 86.
Shortly before Christmas, Utley was confident enough to send a text to Manuel. It surprised the manager. "He doesn't say too much," Manuel said.
"It told me quite a bit. The text at Christmas actually said, 'If you'll be a good boy, you might get a healthy second baseman. Santa might bring you a hell of a second baseman.' "
Utley played fewer games in 2012 than 2011. He will never be rid of the condition that affects his knees. He is a year older. That is adversity Utley is convinced he can overcome.
"There is something there," Utley said, "where in the last few years there hasn't been."
Contact Matt Gelb at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @magelb.