The results of Chase Utley's simulated game Sunday were positive, enough so that Utley took the field early this afternoon for another simulated situation.
Manager Charlie Manuel watched it and decided Utley appears close to expanding his rehab from patellar tendinitis and whatever else ails his right knee.
"It might be time to let him go somewhere, like Clearwater or something," Manuel said. "He's starting to get into a broader, big routine. I think he's doing much better. He's getting there. How he responds after he does that kind of workout the last couple of days, that's what counts."
Manuel did not say what Utley could do in Clearwater. He did indicate he's not ready for rehab games, per se, but going to Clearwater could allow him to begin playing in extended spring training games. Doing that would allow him to get as many at-bats as the Phillies and he desire.
"We'll see how he feels tomorrow and then see what the next step is," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said through a team official.
Utley was asked if playing in games is his next step.
"I don't know," he said. "We have to discuss how we'll work this and go from there."
How many at-bats will he need?
"I don't know," Utley said.
Could he play in a game right now, knowing how his body feels?
"I think there's still time until that point," Utley said. "We'll have to wait and see."
These recent workouts have gone well, Utley said. The goal has been to progress slowly to avoid any sort of setback. That has worked. Manuel indicated Utley had felt some soreness after his simulated games, but that appears to be something normal.
"We just have to stick with it," Utley said.
The Phillies head to Florida to open a roadtrip Monday, so Utley could head to Clearwater then. Or maybe the progress is such that he leaves even sooner.
Meanwhile, Carlos Ruiz is taking swings for the first time today. His sore back is feeling better, but he still may need a few more days.
Also, J.C. Romero is pitching in a rehab game at single-A Lakewood. He could be activated Wednesday, giving the Phillies 12 pitchers again.
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