As you can read here, the big news from Phils general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan this morning was that there is no news. No progression in Utley's sore knee. No clearer timetable on when he might be able to return. No solution on how to treat the problem.
The Phillies are currently gathering and evaluation non-operative options. But surgery has not been ruled out.
We'll try to answer all your questions about the news here:
Q: Why did the Phillies wait until now to take the next step?
A: Because Utley has had this condition in the past, especially in spring training. Usually, it dissipates. The Phillies were hoping that would happen this year as well. When it didn't, they administered a cortisone injection, hoping that would alleviate the irritation. Now, they are moving on to the next step. The hope in a medical progression is that the injury responds to the least invasive treatment. You can't skip from point A to point D.
Q: Will Utley be ready for Opening Day?
A: Amaro would not rule it out. But right now it sounds highly unlikely that the second baseman will be ready to go. The good news is that he continues to hit in batting practice. Amaro said that hitting does not irritate the knee, and the Phillies want Utley to do whatever activity he feels capable of doing. So if the pain leaves within the next week or two, Utley could certainly get himself into playing shape in time for the opener. But I wouldn't bet on it.
Q: How likely is surgery?
A: The Phillies would not handicap the scenario. But is has to be considered a legitimate possibility at this point. Still, having watched Utley over the past few years, I know that he will do everything in his power to avoid surgery.
Q: If surgery is a possibility, why not just have it now instead of wasting time examining other options. Then, Utley could return later in the season, perhaps for the stretch run, perhaps beforehand?
A: Utley was posed with this question by a reporter today.
"What you said would make sense," he answered, "but it's not that cut-and-dry."
Q: Will Utley play this season?
A: Someone asked Amaro this, and the GM responded pretty strongly, saying, "This is definitely not something we're talking about."
Utley was a little less definite.
"My goal is to alleviate this as quickly as possible," he said, "but still keep in mind that I have a career ahead of me."
Q: Who would replace Utley?
A: At this point, it would be Wilson Valdez. Amaro confirmed that today. Beyond Valdez, the Phillies have a slew of infielders in camp who are capable of playing the position. Amaro said he viewed Delwyn Young as more of an offensive player than a defensive player, but he can play second base in addition to the outfield and I really think he has the inside track on one of the last spots on the bench. Amaro said the Phillies are not looking outside the organization to address second base. Really, from everything I've heard, they don't have the money. They could free some up by trading Joe Blanton, but it is unclear if anybody is even available (beyond the Rangers Michael Young, who has a pretty hefty contract over the next few seasons).
Q: Any other options?
A: Luis Castillo is rumored to be on the outs in New York. If the Mets ended up releasing him, he might be a player the Phillies would consider as an emergency measure behind Valdez. Otherwise there really are not a ton of options available. If this were nearer the trade deadline, that might be a different story. But we are in the second week of March. Teams have just spent an entire offseason setting their rosters, making all of the pieces fit. It's hard to imagine anybody blowing things up right now. You never know, though.
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