Utley wants to speed up his return

Chase Utley is optimistic he will return ahead of schedule from his thumb injury. (Steven M. Falk / Staff Photographer)

Chase Utley thinks eight weeks is too long.

The Phillies' second baseman talked for the first time Monday since he suffered a torn ligament in his right thumb that required surgery four days ago in New York. Wearing a cast has on his right arm, Utley said he thinks he can be back sooner than the eight weeks forecast after the injury.

"The numbers that were originally told to me were five weeks ... for it to heal back properly, another week or so to get the movement back in your hand and as far as the baseball standpoint two, three, four, five games to get back into shape that way," Utley said during a news conference at Citizens Bank Park. "Obviously we'll have to see how it goes, but at this point I'm pretty optimistic."

Utley, who suffered the thumb injury on a headfirst slide into second base during a June 28 game at Cincinnati, said he will get the larger cast he's currently wearing removed at some point next week.

"Then I'll get a smaller cast and I will still have to keep my thumb immobolized," he said.

When Utley fractured his right hand in 2007, he underwent surgery and was expected to miss between four and six weeks. He returned in four weeks and batted .321 with five home runs and 21 RBIs in the Phillies' final 32 games.

"Knowing that I've come back from an injury before and been successful, yeah, that's good to know," Utley said. "I'm going to do everything I'm allowed to do up until the point where I'm ready. Once (the big cast) comes off I'll start taking some ground balls obviously keeping the (injured) hand out of the way. The only thing I won't be able to do is throw or hit. I'm going to try to stay in shape."

Utley said he wasn't surprised to learn of the severity of the injury because he knew something was seriously wrong when he tried to swing a bat before coming out of the game in Cincinnati.

"I was disappointed obviously, but not totally surprised," Utley said.

Utley said he doesn't know if he will attend the July 13 All-Star Game in Anaheim. He was voted in as a starter by the fans.

"I haven't really decided what I'm going to do," he said. "I have an appointmentnext week to get this ugly thing off."


Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro said he had nothing to report about lefthander J.A. Happ's status. Happ pitched in his sixth rehab start for triple-A Lehigh Valley Sunday and the clock on his 30-day rehab expires Wednesday.

"From the sound of what they were telling me, he might still need some work," manager Charlie Manuel said.

Happ pitched 5 1/3 innings and allowed four runs on six hits during Lehigh Valley's 6-4 win over  Pawtucket Sunday. He walked four and struck out one.

It seems likely that Happ is going to be optioned to Lehigh Valley and continue to work on his command and velocity as a member of the IronPigs' starting rotation.

"We're tying to get him to progress," Dubee said. "To get his arm strength and his command. What good is putting him in the bullpen going to do in helping his progression? To me it's not going to help anything. In my opinion (the bullpen) isn't even an option because it is not going to help his progress."