CLEARWATER, Fla. Chase Utley returned to the Phillies' training camp on Friday morning. In fact, some of the players saw Utley with their very own eyes, though the media can only go by word of mouth.
What Utleys return means in the scheme of things remains to be seen. According to general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., there is no update on the All-Star second basemans status after a trip to Arizona for consultations on how to best treat his chronic knee issues.
I dont have much to add, Amaro said. Hes back.
But for how long and in what capacity?
Utley left Florida on Monday and reportedly went to Arizona to visit with knee specialists. Since then the Phillies have been hanging in limbo as far as which player will start at second base when the season opens and who will be there in the near future and beyond. Knee issues cost Utley the first 46 games of the 2011 season and when he returned he clearly experienced a step back in terms of offensive production.
Meanwhile, utility infielder Michael Martinez suffered a broken fourth metatarsal in his right foot during Tuesdays game against the Orioles in Sarasota. Amaro says the injury will keep Martinez out of action for the next six to eight weeks.
Without Utley and Martinez, the Phillies middle infield depth is thin. They have Jimmy Rollins and prospect Freddy Galvis, who seems likely to have the starting job at second base come Opening Day. The team also has Pete Orr, who can play second base as well as Placido Polanco, who twice won the Gold Glove at second. However, Polanco is 36 and had surgery during the past two off-seasons. One would assume that Polanco likely does not have the range to play second base any more.
Galvis, with all of 33 games above Double A, seems destined to jump in at second base even though he has never played the position professionally. However, in Grapefruit League action, Galvis has handled 15 plays in nine games without an error at second base.
Still, Amaro is not averse to finding some middle infield depth.
Were keeping our eyes open on middle infield depth and we might be able to do it internally, but it behooves us to know whats going on out there as far as guys who may be able to help us, the GM said.
In the meantime, dont look for the Phillies to trade some of their pitching depth in order to bolster their infield. Thats not going to happen, Amaro says.
Id rather keep the strength a strength, he said.
Until Utley updates everyone with what is going on with his knees, all the Phillies can do is hold out hope that their All-Star will be back sooner rather than later.
I still think Chase is going to be back at some point, but we just dont know when, Amaro said, giving perhaps the most optimistic news on Utley of the entire spring.