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Chase Utley gets the green light to return to the field for the Phillies

After sitting out each of the last two spring schedules because of chronic knee pain, Chase Utley will play in games Friday and Saturday in Clearwater.

Chase Utley gets the green light to return to the field for the Phillies

Phillies Chase Utley fields a ground ball during Spring Training workouts in Clearwater, FL on Tuesday, February 12, 2013. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Phillies Chase Utley fields a ground ball during Spring Training workouts in Clearwater, FL on Tuesday, February 12, 2013. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

For the first time in three years, Chase Utley will play in a Grapefruit League game.

Following Wednesday’s workout at the Carpenter Complex, manager Charlie Manuel said Utley would start and play at least a couple of innings in Friday’s five-inning intrasquad game at Bright House Field (which, by the way, starts at noon and is free to the public).

And there’s more: Manuel also said Utley would start in the Phillies’ Grapefruit League opener in Clearwater on Saturday. Utley hasn’t appeared in an exhibition game in Florida in either of the last two years while battling chronic knee pain.

After nearly a full week of full-squad workouts, Manuel has been impressed with Utley.

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Can Chase Utley be an elite second baseman again?
Yes. He looks healthy for the first time in years.
No. He is not likely to hold up over the long haul.

“I think he worked hard this winter,” Manuel said. “I think he really put a lot of hard time in last year. He went to Arizona. And I think after the season was over, with the way he’s swinging right now and the way he looks, you could tell he’s definitely willing to pay the price to get back to where he was. I think Utley wants to play quite a few more years. And that’s good.”

Manuel said Utley likely wouldn’t plan when the Phillies travel to Lakeland to play the Detroit Tigers on Sunday. Many veterans get breaks from spring training road trips, so it’s not altogether surprising.

The Phillies-Tigers game should be interesting nonetheless because of the projected pitching matchup: Roy Halladay vs. Justin Verlander.

Ryan Lawrence Daily News Staff Writer
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