MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- No more batting each inning and playing the field whenever Chase Utley chooses to. The freedom of extended spring training games will be removed tonight, when Utley officially begins his rehab assignment with single-A Clearwater.
The game is 7 p.m. at Bright House Field against the Palm Beach Cardinals. Utley will face a lefty, John Gast, who is a 22-year-old sixth-round pick of St. Louis.
This official assignment is significant in that Utley is now on the clock. Official rehab assignments are limited to a maximum of 20 days, per Major League Baseball rules. That means Utley must be activated by May 30.
Obviously, it appears the second baseman's return from patellar tendinitis, chondromalacia and bone inflammation in his right knee will come much sooner than that. He played four innings in the field in two extended spring training games -- while taking a day off in between said games.
Now he'll play on back-to-back days for the first time. How many innings he is scheduled to play is unknown.
But it's clear Utley is almost ready to return to the majors.
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