CLEARWATER, Fla. – Chase Utley fielded several dozen ground balls off the bat at second base Wednesday. In one workout, he fielded more balls than he did the last two spring trainings. Utley didn’t just field balls, either. He covered significant ground and turned double plays with the rest of the Phillies starting infield. The effort was the latest sign that Utley’s knees are feeling good.
Here’s another sign that Utley is on a good track toward being in the opening-day lineup for the first time since 2010: He will play in back-to-back exhibition games on Friday and Saturday at Bright House Field. Utley has not played in a spring-training game since 2010. He had painful knee flareups in both springs. A new treatment and conditioning program has Utley feeling …
“Pretty damn good right now,” he said last week.
Friday’s contest will be a five-inning intrasquad game. First pitch is at noon, and the game is open to the public free of charge. A pair of prospects, lefty Adam Morgan and righty Jonathan Pettibone, will be the starting pitchers.
Manager Charlie Manuel said Utley would play two or three innings and get two at-bats. He is scheduled to come back Saturday and play several innings in the Grapefruit League opener against Houston at Bright House Field.
Utley will not travel to Lakeland for Sunday’s game against the Tigers. He probably won’t make many road trips this spring. Phillies officials want to walk the fine line of getting him ready for the season while preserving his knees. He can get enough prep time in home games.
The Phillies have posted their pitching plans (see story) for the first five exhibition games. Reliever Mike Adams will not pitch in any of those games. He had surgery to remove a rib in October. The surgery was performed to alleviate the effects of thoracic outlet syndrome, which caused numbness in Adams’ right hand. Adams says he’s feeling great and his revved-up bullpen sessions attest to that, but the Phillies prefer to go slow with him and a longer than usual spring training (to accommodate the World Baseball Classic) gives them that luxury.
Adams will start getting into games in early March. He only needs eight or nine appearances to be ready, pitching coach Rich Dubee said.