Surgery still on table for Utley. . .More

Chase Utley will return to Philadelphia and see a hand specialist. His thumb injury has been diagnosed as a sprain. ( Steven M. Falk / Staff File Photo)

The way assistant GM Scott Proefrock and head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan described it, the Phillies are in a holding pattern for the next 24 hours as second baseman Chase Utley travels back to Philadelphia to visit a hand specialist.

His thumb injury has officially been diagnosed as a sprain, but the Phillies say there is some uncertainty as to the severity of it: A Grade Three sprain, for example, would mean a complete rupture of the ligament.

Sheridan said the biggest question right now is how best to treat the thumb -- surgically, or non-surgically.

Here are some answers to other questions that might be on your mind:

1) Why wasn't Cody Ransom called up?

Ransom, an experienced veteran who performed well during major league spring training, is scheduled to see a doctor at some point in the next 24 hours to look at what Proefrock described as a "balky knee." Proefrock said the Phillies did not want to promote a player dealing with injury issues, although it sounds like there is a chance that Ransom could join the team in the near future if the knee checks out. He's hitting .238 with a .311 on base percentage and 16 home runs at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

"We obviously didn't want to call up a player who had health issues," Proefrock said. "There was some concern over it and we didn't feel comfortable bringing him up until that was resolved."

Said Manuel: "You could see Ransom pretty soon."

2) What's Polanco's timetable?

Also unclear. Proefrock said he will be evaluated by a doctor in Philadelphia and will likely have another MRI on his ailing elbow. Polanco has already had two cortisone shots on the elbow, which he injured in late April after getting with a pitch in Atlanta. He received an X-Ray in Atlanta and an MRI later during a road trip in Florida that showed no structural damage. But Polanco does have a pre-existing bone chip, and the injury in Atlanta may have aggravated it. Proefrock said Polanco was put on the DL because the Phillies weren't satisfied with the way he responded to the latest cortisone shot. More on his immediate future should be known today or tomorrow.

"It just didn't react as we would've liked to the treatment," Proefrock said. "There was still some tenderness, and we just felt it was important to make sure we've got the complete understanding of what the issue is and give him the amount of time of rest to hopefully resolve it."

3) Are the Phillies planning on making an outside move to bolster their infield?

They are looking at their external options, although there isn't much out there, and the level of their desperation depends on what the long-term prognosis for Utley and Polanco is.

"I think we're always looking to get better," Proefrock said. "Now, our focus may be a little different than it was, but we'll explore whatever options are available. The main thing I think is we need to find out the length of both Polly and Chase's stays on the DL, and that we don't know just yet."

Orioles infielder Ty Wigginton is a player the Phillies were interested in after the 2008 season, but he signed in Baltimore, where he was guaranteed more at-bats thanks to the DH. Three years ago, when Utley went on the DL with a broken hand, the Phillies turned around and traded for Tadahito Iguchi, who went on to hit .304 with a .361 OBP, three home runs and 22 runs scored in 45 games. But Iguchi is regarded as a much better fielder than Wigginton (see previous post), and Wigginton has has hit .214/.336/.255 with no home runs in his last 98 at-bats after starting the season hitting .300/.361/.613 with 13 home runs. He also recently missed a game with tightness in his back. 

Diamondbacks second baseman Kelly Johnson might be the ideal fit if Utley is gone for long. He isn't regarded by scouts as a great fielder, but better than Wigginton.

4) How will Charlie Manuel manage in the short term?

Today's line-up provides a pretty good example. Shane Victorino is hitting first, followed by Greg Dobbs and Jimmy Rollins. Dobbs should see the bulk of the playing time at third against righties. Manuel likes to put his best defense on the field, but he acknowledged today that he would likely have to sacrifice some defense for the sake of offense, since the line-up is now without its top hitter. Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth will likely stay at No. 4 and No. 5, although Werth has hit third before.

The big key to weathering the storm without Utley could be Raul Ibanez, who is hitting .245/.334/.400 with six home runs and 35 RBI, and Victorino, who is hitting .249/.321/.451 with 12 home runs and 45 RBI.

The Phillies have enough weapons to make due without Utley, but only if those weapons are actually hitting like weapons.


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