Utley: a mid-June return is "realistic."

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In the last four days, Chase Utley has taken an important step toward his eventual return. (Kathy Willens/AP)

It was 22 days ago in Miami when it was announced that Chase Utley was a last-minute scratch in the Phillies lineup with an injury to his right side. A few days later he was placed on the DL with an oblique strain and the Phils estimated a 2-4 week timetable in his return.

Utley, however, said he would practice caution since the oblique injury is a "tricky" one that can get worse if a player attempts to rush back.

But in the last four days, Utley has taken an important step toward his eventual return.

Utley swung for the first time in nearly three weeks on Sunday in Milwaukee. He's progressed from hitting off a tee to taking soft toss in the indoor cage with assistant hitting coach Wally Joyner on Wednesday at Target Field.

Although he doesn't have a target date in mind for a return or even the beginning of a minor league rehab assignment, Utley was encouraged with his progress.

"The guys who I’ve talked to, who have had this in the past, they said once you start swinging, a few said it was sore and they had to back off for a few days," Utley said. "So far I haven’t had to do that."

Utley hopes to take live hitting outdoors - during pregame batting practice with his teammates - this weekend in Denver. When the Phils finish their road trip at Coors Field on Sunday and return home on Monday, the calendar will flip to June 17.

Is it still possible for Utley to return in mid-June, as general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said last homestand?

"I think it’s still realistic," Utley said. "Everything has gone well so far. Tomorrow I’m going to probably do the same, maybe pick up the intensity a little bit and go from there. But I don’t have an actual date."

 

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