The signs are there: Phillies will likely begin without Utley

The Phillies did not rule out surgery for Chase Utley. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Begin with this: Ruben Amaro Jr. expects Chase Utley to play sometime this season. He will not miss the entire year.

"It's definitely not something we're talking about," Amaro said.

Beyond that, the Phillies can make no definitive statements about the status of Utley's right knee. That, they said, is because they just don't know what is going on inside.

The 32-year-old second baseman has been diagnosed with chondromalacia and bone inflammation in addition to the patellar tendinitis that was previously found. Those symptoms have persisted longer than they have in the past, but the Phillies aren't ready to pursue surgery for Utley.

Problem is, they don't even know what surgery they could do right now.

"Those are the things we're researching," head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan said. 

Sheridan and team physician Michael Ciccotti have begun soliciting other medical professionals for second opinions. They will not look to do surgery until those other options are exhausted, Amaro said.

"They can be fairly effective," Sheridan said. "The problem is nobody wants to take the time sometimes. That's the important thing. If we do it the right way..."

Basically, it means more rest. And more waiting. Amaro downplayed the importance of Utley being ready for opening day. He never said Utley won't be ready, but it was not hard to see what the GM was doing.

"For us, this is a long-term thing," Amaro said. "Frankly, I do not care if he's making opening day or not making opening day. For us, this is him being able to play long term. Long term meaning through this year, through next year, through the following year. This is something where we want to make sure he's 100 percent when he gets on the field so we don't have any missteps beyond this. That's why we're holding him back so much."

Why not do surgery now instead of waiting?

"We just want to get him well," Amaro said. "That's the goal here -- and to get him well long term."

And so we wait. Again.

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