Utley, Howard, Rollins among early arrivals

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Shortly after 11 a.m., Ryan Howard emerged from a side door at Bright House Field and stared at empty dirt.

"Where'd everybody go?" he asked.

Howard missed Tuesday's informal infield drills by about 10 minutes. Had he received the memo, he could have been standing on the same infield at the same time as Chase Utley.

In recent springs, that has not happened often.

Howard missed all of last spring following Achilles surgery and complications thereafter. Utley has not played in a Grapefruit League game since 2010 because of his chronically injured knees. But both infielders appear healthy at the start of camp this spring.

Utley spryly moved during groundball drills Tuesday. He may have been more active than at any point last spring. The Phillies monitored him closer than ever this winter. The second baseman, on the advice of his doctors and trainers, made the decision to stay busy on his knees. The downtime in recent winters apparently made it more difficult to ramp up in preparation for the season.

Howard looked in better shape than last spring, which was to be expected. After Achilles surgery in October 2011, he was restrained to a couch for two months and conditioning was a challenge.

Shortly after Howard disappeared, Jimmy Rollins completed some work on the same field. The three infielders are here well in advance of Friday's mandatory report date for position players.

The real tests, of course, are beyond taking grounders on a half field in February.

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