Utley says he hopes to play next week

Utley says he hopes to play next week
March 17, 2012, 8:12 pm
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CLEARWATER, Fla. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. continues to say he believes Chase Utley will be ready for opening day, but nothing definitive will be known until Utley gets on the field and starts playing in some exhibition games.

He will let us know health-wise and performance-wise, Amaro said.

Phillies officials hope Utley can begin getting into some games next week.

Utley is plagued by chronic knee tendinitis. Team officials have planned to ease him in to game action all along. He takes batting practice, but very few ground balls because of the pounding that playing defense creates on his knees.

Utley is an extremely private guy, especially when it comes to health matters. He is also elusive and seldom has time for media inquiries. On Saturday, however, the taciturn second baseman did pause for a few seconds to take a few questions.

Q: How are you feeling?

A: I have nothing new to update you on.
Q: Will you play in games next week?

A: Id like to.

Q: Do you believe thats realistic?

A: We will see. Well see how I feel. Were trying to make some progress here.

And with that, Utley walked away.

Phillies officials believe Utley can be ready to play with 40-50 spring at-bats and he can get some of them in minor-league games. It would not be surprising to see him eased into action in minor-league games, possibly as a designated hitter, before stepping it up and playing defense in some big-league games. All along, the Phillies have targeted the final 10 to 12 games of the spring for getting Utley into game action. The Phils have an off day Wednesday. After that, they have 11 game dates in Florida and two more in Philadelphia. That seems to be the timeframe in which Utley could play and in which a determination of his readiness for opening day can be made.

E-mail Jim Salisbury at jsalisbury@comcastportsnet.com