PITTSBURGH -- The Phillies will likely be without their star second baseman until September.
Chase Utley had surgery to repair a severely torn ligament in his right thumb Thursday. He will miss at least eight weeks, Phillies head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan said. Utley's thumb will be put in a splint for five weeks.
The injury proved to be worse than a sprain -- part of the ligament was pulled off the bone.
"We thought a lot of things," Sheridan said. "We kind of expected this. We knew the injury was significant when it happened."
With Chase Utley and Placido Polanco sidelined, should the Phillies trade for an infielder now?
Sheridan was asked if Utley, who has eschewed injury timetables in the past, could do the same thing this time.
"I don’t have enough details to give a good answer on that," Sheridan said. "But I’ll tell you one thing. Obviously I’ve worked with Chase a lot on all these, nobody is going to work harder than he is. If it could happen, I would bet on him before I’d bet on other people or whatever. Chase is going to work hard. You know that. He’s not going to do anything differently than he does on the field."
It's a crushing blow to the Phillies, who will almost certainly seek help outside the organization to replace Utley.
Whether they pursue a second or third baseman remains to be seen. That's because the news isn't as grim with third baseman Placido Polanco. Polanco has what Sheridan termed "chronic triceps tendinitis" and will be shut down completely for two weeks. He could resume baseball activities on July 10 and the Phillies are expecting Polanco to be back within three to four weeks total.
No surgery was recommended for Polanco by the two doctors he saw.
With that news, the Phillies could decide to seek help for third base and shift Polanco to second base (where he won a Gold Glove in 2009 with Detroit) upon his return. Finding a third baseman would presumably be easier than a second baseman, although options exist at both positions.
The injury to Polanco will not go away, but the Phillies will attempt to manage the pain.
"This timetable that we’re giving him now is important," Sheridan said. "He’s had rest in the past, and obviously it wans’t enough. But Polly is a gamer. He wants to play. He’s going to try to push through a little bit. Now I think we’re at the point where we’ve got to give him the full two weeks. That’s why we placed him on the disabled list."
Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock, who representing the front office on this road trip, was coy on a possible move. Understandable, considering the Phillies are operating from a clear disadvantage in possible trade talks. Other teams don't need to look hard to see why the Phillies need infield help.
"We're not the only team that has injuries," Proefrock said. "We've got a tremendous amount of talent still out on the field. They need to step it up and do their jobs."
Phillies superscout Charlie Kerfeld scouted the Mariners-Yankees game at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday. The Phillies could be interested in Seattle infielder Jose Lopez, a player the Mariners are reportedly looking to move. Of course, the Phillies and Mariners have been trade partners before and are very familiar with one another.
Baltimore's Ty Wigginton also remains an option. Wigginton is a player the Phillies have had high interest in before. Arizona's Kelly Johnson has a cheap contract this season and has hit 13 home runs but could cost the Phillies a top-flight prospect.
Surely, in the coming days you will hear plenty of names and rumors bandied about. It's that time of year. And after today's news, the Phillies are shopping, no doubt.