Target is Tuesday for Utley

Chase Utley is likely to return to the Phillies on Tuesday. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

UPDATE (7:56 p.m.): Chase Utley goes 1 for 3 in his first rehab game for single-A Clearwater. He grounded out to first, struck out looking and tripled in his final at-bat. He played five innings in the field.

EARLIER: Updating what we previously reported on Chase Utley...

Utley is scheduled to play in rehab games over the next three days for single-A Clearwater. If all goes well, the Phillies second baseman could be activated from the disabled list as soon as Tuesday.

He will play five innings for Clearwater on Saturday, seven innings Sunday and then possibly both games of a doubleheader on Monday. (Doubleheaders in the minor leagues are seven-inning games and the Phillies want Utley to play nine innings before bringing him back. It could be 14 instead.)

"After those three games," assistant GM Scott Proefrock said, "we'll reevaluate him."

In other words, as long as his thumb hasn't fallen off, he will be activated.

Proefrock said Utley, who only began swinging a bat Wednesday, isn't being rushed. Andrew Weiland, the hand specialist who performed the July 1 surgery on Utley, cleared Utley to hit Wednesday after he was satisfied with the healing in the right thumb.

The only timetable that has accelerated is Utley's baseball recovery.

"He felt comfortable after those three days to tell us, 'Let's go. I'm ready to play,'" Proefrock said. "He's been doing everything else. He's been taking ground balls and throwing as best he can. He's been doing his exercises. Everything else is ready. It's just a matter of him getting ready to hit."

Utley worked out at the Phillies' complex in Clearwater on Friday and told the team afterward he was ready to play in games. The team told him to sleep on it, making sure he felt the same way Saturday morning. He did.

If Utley plays Tuesday, he will return nearly two weeks ahead of the original prognosis.

"Nothing is a surprise with regards to his ability to recuperate," Proefrock said. "He wants to play. It's had to been killing him not to play. He's like a caged animal."