CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The absence of Chase Utley was bothering Ruben Amaro Jr. enough to order an MRI on the second baseman's sore right knee. And Amaro's instincts were correct: Utley has patellar tendinitis that will force the Phillies to limit the 32-year-old in spring training.
There is no timetable for Utley to begin playing spring training games. The tendinitis does not hurt Utley when he is hitting, but he feels the pain while he runs and fields. So for now, he will not do any of that.
"We just don't want it to get any worse," Amaro said. "There's no reason for us to push him now and for it to be a problem in May, June, July, August. So we'll take it easy on him."
Utley said he first felt the tendinitis during his offseason workouts. He said he has had similar soreness before but it has gone away quicker. So the tendinitis is best categorized as a "condition" and not an "injury."
"I've had it in the past," Utley said. "It comes and goes. Right now it's not going as fast as I wish it would. I think at this point it's better to be safe than sorry. I'd rather miss some games down here than miss some games during the season."
Amaro said the injury comes from "wear and tear" and that's what is most concerning. Utley is known for his intense work ethic when it comes to preparing his body for games. The Phillies are hoping -- with some gentle monitoring -- to slow Utley down.
He originally brought the soreness to the attention of the Phillies athletic training staff. In the past, Utley said he probably wouldn't have notified the them.
"More than likely [not]," he said.
But as Utley continues to age, the priorities change. This is one example.
"I try to look at things in the big picture," Utley said. "We have, hopefully, 200 more games to play this year. So I'd rather participate in the majority of them later on than early on."
Utley has three years remaining on a seven-year, $85 million deal signed in 2007.
Utley said he's played through worse pain during the season. Amaro was asked if the injury could prevent Utley from being ready for opening day.
"I do not think so," Amaro said. "Maybe it could. But that's one of the reasons why we're trying to do it now."
The second baseman is confident rest will cure the current soreness.
"I hope it's just a minor blip," Utley said. "We have the right people checking it out. The work ethic is going to be there in terms of trying to improve it."
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