Utley activated from DL

The Phillies have activated Chase Utley from the DL and designated Greg Dobbs for assignment. (Steven M. Falk / Staff Photographer)

Chase Utley is back.

The Phillies activated their star second baseman from the disabled list on Tuesday afternoon, ending his speedy comeback from a thumb injury that was expected to sideline him for eight weeks. Utley is in the lineup and batting second tonight against San Francisco.

To make room for Utley, the Phillies designated reserve infielder/outfielder Greg Dobbs for assignment for the second time this season.

First baseman Ryan Howard remains on the disabled list with a sprained ankle.

Utley, who injured his thumb on a head first slide into second base in a loss to the Reds on June 28, had surgery to repair a ligament in his thumb on July 1. As late as last week, the Phillies said publicly they expected his recovery to take about eight weeks, which would have returned him to the line-up sometime during the last week of August. But Utley shifted his recovery into fifth gear over the weekend. He was cleared to swing a bat on Wednesday, and by Saturday was making his first rehab start in Clearwater.

Utley played in games on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, going 2-for-10. On Monday, Phillies special assistant Charlie Kerfeld was non-committal about the prospects of a Tuesday return.

"They'll make the final decision (in Philadelphia)," Kerfeld said. "But I think he probably needs a couple more games."

The Phillies struggled in the immediate aftermath of Utley's injury, losing 12 of their first 20 games while hitting .233 with a .295 OBP and averaging 4.1 runs. Since then, they have won 18 of 23 while hitting .286 with a .354 OBP and averaging 5.1 runs.

In the 13 games before he hit the disabled list, Utley was 18-for-49 (.367) with a home run, double, triple, 11 RBI and nine runs scored. In his first 59 games, Utley hit .256 with a .375 OBP, .835 OPS, 10 home runs and 26 RBI.

Overall, he is hitting .277 with a .383 OBP, .849 OPS, 11 home runs, 37 RBI and 49 runs.

The Phillies opted to keep rookie outfielder Domonic Brown over Dobbs, who is hitting .191 with a .250 OBP and .569 OPS in 76 games. Dobbs' average peaked at .216 on July 26. In 14 games since, he is 2-for-25 with 1 extra base hit and no RBI.