The progressions of Chase Utley have been measured in accomplishing simple baseball tasks made difficult by a bad right knee. Sunday brought another: Utley played in a "semi-simulated type of thing" as described by Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.
What does that mean? Utley saw breaking balls for the first time since the first week of spring training. Pitching coach Rich Dubee threw him a few -- not from off the mound, but just in front of it like batting practice. Utley then ran the bases and also took grounders at second base. To simulate a game, he sat in the dugout in between innings for a few minutes.
This happened for around three innings and it represents a huge progression in Utley's recovery. The Phillies have been reluctant to put any sort of timetable on a return, but Amaro did not rule out Utley being able to go to Florida by the end of the week to begin playing in games.
"This is a good sign," Amaro said.
The Phillies and Utley will not know how good until Monday, when he will feel some of the after effects of increased activity. But if those side effects are minimal, the plan is for Utley to do another simulated game Tuesday.
The repetition and increased workload suggests he is close to rehab game readiness.
That does not mean Utley will return after three minor-league games like has from injuries in the past. This rehab will require a prolonged stint seeing live pitching since Utley has not played in an actual game since Oct. 23, 2010 -- Game 6 of the National League Championship Series.
"It's different because he hasn't really gone through spring training," Amaro said. "He hasn't had any live at-bats. He's hitting here every day but that's different."
The Phillies will not know how long Utley needs until he starts playing in games. They will not know how much this condition will need to be managed when he returns. And they will not know exactly which Utley they will have until he actually plays.
"He says he feels OK," Amaro said. "That's OK for me."
Roy Oswalt will rejoin the team Thursday. That means he'll start either Saturday or Sunday. So everyone will move up a day, meaning Cole Hamels pitches Tuesday, Vance Worley on Wednesday and Roy Halladay on Thursday. But because of Monday's off day everyone is on regular rest. (Hamels actually has an extra day still because of Thursday's day off.)
Domonic Brown was activated from the disabled list and optioned to triple-A Lehigh Valley. He will begin play there Monday.
Joe Blanton is scheduled to throw Tuesday off flat ground. J.C. Romero threw a bullpen and did some fielding practice. He is going to single-A Lakewood on Tuesday and could return as early as Wednesday. Carlos Ruiz is feeling better but not game ready. Amaro is hoping he's good by Tuesday, but Dane Sardinha will likely stick around for a few more days.
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