Phillies' Utley out for this week's games at least

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(David Swanson/Staff Photographer)

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Chase Utley's right ankle has improved since he reported for spring training more than a week ago, the veteran second baseman said, but is not yet well enough to play in games.

Utley, who sprained the ankle in January during an offseason workout, said he probably will not play in any of this week's Grapefruit League games. The Phillies open their slate against the New York Yankees on Tuesday afternoon, the first of 15 consecutive days with a game.

"I'm making a little progress," Utley said. "Obviously, I wish it was going a little bit quicker, but I'm trying to be smart about it. It seems like it's making some progressions every few days. As long as it continues to do that, I'd like to get out there as soon as possible."

The injury occurred when Utley stepped on a baseball while fielding ground balls in San Francisco. Up until Monday he participated in each of the Phillies' full-squad workouts, limiting himself in base-running drills.

He did not practice Monday morning but that was only because a 90-minute pre-practice team meeting filled the time he typically spends preparing. Utley, who missed the beginning of the 2011 and 2012 seasons because of knee issues, has a daily routine he goes through in order to take the field. The Phillies took their turn Monday morning participating in a league-mandated education program regarding domestic violence and sexual assault.

Utley, his ankle still visibly swollen, will watch Tuesday's game. Cesar Hernandez is starting at second base and batting eighth. Leftfielder Grady Sizemore will hit third.

"It looks worse than it is," Utley said of his ankle, "but it's not like it's [ready to go]. There's no point balancing on it or jumping on it. If I start balancing and jumping on it when this isn't ready, something else is going to take the brunt of it, and I want to avoid [that]. So that's where we're at."

It's not yet known when Utley, 36, will make his 2015 Grapefruit League debut. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said Sunday the Phillies would "ease him into games a little bit down the road." General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Monday, "they're not going to play him for a little while."

In the meantime, Utley will continue to "make small progressions, and once they feel comfortable enough to do, go to the next progression," he said.

"The real test is once you get on the field and you try to go on it in an athletic fashion. That's where you can tell where you're at, and I'm not quite there to go 100 percent yet. There's no sense in overdoing it and screwing something else up, especially when we have a month till the season starts."


kaplanj@phillynews.com

@jakemkaplan