Utley: 'I’m not that surprised'

(Steven M. Falk/Staff file photo)

Inquirer contributor Bob Putnam files this report from Florida:

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Chase Utley’s postoperative timetable continues to be ahead of schedule, so much that the all-star second baseball still is on track to be in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Utley, who is working his way back from right thumb surgery, played the second game of a rehabilitation assignment with the single-A Clearwater Threshers on Sunday, going 0 for 3.

“My thumb feels good,” Utley said. “It’s not bothering me at all. I don’t know what the plans will be after that. I’ll have to discuss that with Charlie (Manuel) and (Ruben) Amaro and go from there.”

He is scheduled to appear in both games of a doubleheader with the Threshers today, playing the first one at second base and the second game as a designated hitter. Utley said the plan is to fly back to Philadelphia after the final game Monday.

Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock, who is with the team in New York, said the reports on Utley are positive. He would not definitively say Utley will be activated Tuesday if all goes well. He will be re-evaluated by team doctors then.

"He told us he felt great," Proefrock said.

Typically a fast healer, Utley was supposed to be out eight weeks after surgery according to doctors. Instead he could be back in the lineup this week, nearly two weeks ahead of his scheduled Aug. 26 return date.

“I’m not that surprised that I’ve been able to able to come back so quickly,” Utley said. “I’ve just been pretty fortunate that everything has gone well with my thumb so far.”

This isn’t the first time Utley has accelerated a return from surgery. In the 2008 offseason, Utley had hip surgery and was not expected to be back until May. But Utley played in some spring training games and was ready on opening day.

On Wednesday, Utley was cleared to start swinging a bat by hand specialist Andrew Weiland, who performed the surgery on his thumb.

Two days later, Utley worked out at the Phillies’ Clearwater complex and felt healthy enough to play in a game. His first rehabilitation game was on Saturday, when he went 1-for-3 with a triple in his final at-bat.

In Sunday’s rehab game, Utley grounded out twice and hit a flyout to leftfield. In the field, he committed one error.

“Physically he appears to be fine,” Threshers manager Dusty Wathan said of Utley. “The only thing he needs to do is get his timing down.”

Monday’s games will give Utley as many at-bats as possible before his scheduled return.

“I know I could use a few more plate appearances,” Utley said. “The big thing is just getting into the flow again and making sure my timing is down in the batter’s box.”