Monday, February 8, 2016

What's next for Utley?

From Daily News correspondent Rick Harmon in Clearwater, Fla.

What's next for Utley?

"I think we are progressing in the right direction," Chase Utley said in Clearwater. (Steven M. Falk/Staff file photo)
"I think we are progressing in the right direction," Chase Utley said in Clearwater. (Steven M. Falk/Staff file photo)

From Daily News correspondent Rick Harmon in Clearwater, Fla.

Phillies second baseman Chase Utley said he doesn’t know what the next step is for his surgically repaired right thumb. 

The next move is up to general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.

Utley started both games of the Clearwater Threshers’ Florida State League doubleheader Monday – the first game at second base and the nightcap as the designated hitter.

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“So far, so good,” Utley said between games. “I have no idea (when or where he'll play next). It's something we’ll have to discuss when I get back to Philadelphia.”

Phillies special assistant to the general manager Charley Kerfeld was at the game and was expected to accompany Utley back to Philadelphia late Monday night.

Kerfeld said he wasn’t necessarily convinced Utley is ready for major league pitching.

“I think he needs some more at-bats,” said Kerfeld, also between games. “He looks fine. He just needs some more pitches.”

In four games with the Threshers, Utley was 3-for-12 with a single and two triples. He also committed two errors in the three games he played at second base.

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

After going 1-for-6 in his first two games in Clearwater, Utley was 1-for-4 in the first game Monday against the Lakeland Flying Tigers. He lined out to left in the first inning, lined out to third in the fourth, flew out to center in the sixth and had a line-drive RBI single that hit off the second baseman’s glove.

In the field, Utley had a ground ball get under his glove but it was scored a base hit in the third inning. Later in the inning, he dropped a throw from shortstop on a routine doubleplay for his second error since joining the Threshers.

In the nightcap, Utley had a stand-up triple to right-centerfield in the first inning and scored on a fielding error by the Tigers third baseman. It looked like Utley was going to get caught in a rundown but the third baseman stumbled and Utley slid head-first safely into home. 

“I was just trying to get back in the flow of the game,” Utley said. “(Just) trying to get some at-bats. Get some timing down. That was the goal down here. I think we are progressing in the right direction. I still have a few more at-bats out there. We'll see how it goes.” 

Utley had surgery on his thumb July 1 after suffering torn ligaments while sliding into second base trying to stretch a single into a double in Cincinnati on June 28. He was placed on the disabled list the next day. After surgery, the all-star second baseman was expected to take 8 weeks to recover but has progressed and is ahead of schedule.

Utley hasn’t done any specific rehabilitation on the thumb. Utley also said he had no limitations on the number of at-bats or amount of time in the field and has experienced no discomfort fielding or throwing.

“Once I was able to move it, I just tried to strengthen it a little bit,” he said. “I think we are going in the right direction."

Utley walked in the fifth inning and was replaced by a pinchrunner, ending his night.

Staff Writer
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