Chase Utley says rehab outing 'went really well'

Chase Utley says rehab outing 'went really well'
June 19, 2013, 11:45 pm
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Chase Utley went 0 for 4 with three flyouts on Wednesday night for Double A Reading (Ralph Trout/Reading Fightin' Phils).

READING, Pa. — It doesn’t look like much in the box score, but for Chase Utley, Wednesday night’s rehab outing for Double A Reading at First Energy Stadium was exactly what he needed.

On the disabled list since May 20 with a strained oblique muscle, Utley cut loose for the first time in nearly a month. The All-Star second baseman played eight innings at second base, had four plate appearances and even got a chance to run the bases even though he went 0 for 4 with three fly outs.

“I could have slid, dove -- I was all in,” Utley said.

“It went well. I played eight innings, got four at-bats and I played with no reservations, which is a good feeling to have. Initially I was scheduled to play seven, but I wanted to get that extra at-bat, so I played an extra inning on defense and I thought it went really well.”

Utley admitted his timing was a little off when at the plate, but the rust wasn’t evident in his swing. As quick and smooth as ever, Utley saw 11 pitches in his four plate appearances and hit the ball solidly.

In the first inning, Utley hit a 1-1 pitch to the warning track in deep left-center. He hit a 2-0 pitch to short center for the third out in the third inning and grounded into a fielder’s choice on a 1-1 pitch in the fifth.

With two outs, Utley went from first to third on Jim Murphy’s looping single to short right field. He took a big turn around third base and appeared ready to head to the plate when Reading’s manager Dusty Wathan threw up the stop sign.

Imagine the explanation from Wathan if Utley had to barrel over the catcher on a play at the plate.

Utley’s night ended in the eighth when he led off the inning with a fly out to right field on a 0-1 pitch.

It was an oh-fer, but it felt pretty good to Utley.

“I felt like I was swinging 100 percent. Obviously, I haven’t seen live pitching in a month. My timing was a little off, but overall it went pretty well,” said Utley, noting that he has been swinging a bat and taking batting practice since Sunday. “The last four or five days I’ve been letting go pretty good and not holding back.”

So is Utley ready to return to the lineup for the Phillies? Probably. However, in a recent update about his injury, Utley said he wanted to take his time and make sure he was healthy before he got back to action.

Though Utley did not commit to another rehab outing for Reading on Thursday night, it seems more than likely that he will suit up in the minors for one more game before returning to the Phillies.

“I don’t [know]. I’ll talk to Charlie (Manuel) and to Ruben (Amaro) and kind of put a game plan together and go from there,” Utley said about his impending return to the big leagues. “But most importantly, feeling good and not holding back was something I wanted to accomplish and I feel pretty good about that.”

Utley seemed downright giddy about playing an actual baseball game for a change. After all, Utley has missed 29 games already this season and 185 games in the last three years.

Headed into this season, Utley appeared in just 62 percent of the Phillies’ regular-season games. So, yes, eight innings at Reading sure beats watching from the dugout and doing strengthen exercises for yet another injury.

“It was nice facing someone other than a BP pitcher,” Utley said. “Their guy tonight [Portland right-hander Anthony Ranaudo] was pretty good. It was good to see a pitcher with some velocity and a breaking ball.”

There’s something else, too. In 73 games this season, the Phillies have had their regular starting eight in the lineup for just five games. With catcher Carlos Ruiz returning this week from a hamstring injury, Utley is the lone holdover.

When Utley returns?

“It means we’re back,” he said.