Lopes mentions Utley knee problems

Davey Lopes said in an interview that Chase Utley has been dealing with some knee problems. (Charles Fox / Staff file photo)

You have to wade through Davey Lopes' thoughts on the Phillies' baserunning this season before you get to it, but there it is:

"Chase has had some problems with his knee, and Jayson has had a horrendous slump for the last month or so," the Phillies' first base coach said in an interview at BaseballProspectus.com "So I think that once they just get back to hitting, and back to winning—these things help us win. When you get on base and the opposition presents you with an opportunity to steal a base—if we don’t capitalize, we’re only defeating what we’re built around."

The first eight words, of course, are what will most interest Phillies fans, many of whom have spent the past month swearing that there is something physically wrong with the team's star second baseman and No. 3 hitter. Much of the speculation has surrounded Utley's hip, which was surgically repaired after the 2008 season.

Utley has denied that he is injured, although he said the same things when he was battling hip problems in 2008. And Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has said repeatedly that he has talked to his second baseman and believes that his health is not impacting his play.

Utley is hitting just .257 this season with a .377 on base percentage that would be his lowest since finishing 2005, his first year as an everyday player, with a mark of .376. Most noticable has been his drop in power -- he is slugging .451, more than 50 points below his career average of .518.

Whether Utley is actually hiding a serious injury that is affecting his play, or whether he is simply battling one of the many aches and pains that will play ballplayers throughout a season, is unclear.

Lopes was the first to be quoted last season about the severity of Raul Ibanez's abdominal injury, which required two surgeries in the offseason. But Ibanez's injury was also obvious to most who watched him run in the field and on the basepaths. Utley, by contrast, has played brilliantly at second base during his slump, and other than his decline in stolen bases, hasn't appeared to be hampered during his baserunning.

More to come. . .