Charlie Manuel visits Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard and scouts Chase Utley, too

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. (Michael Perez/AP file photo)

In three weeks and two days, Charlie Manuel will stroll along the diamonds at the Carpenter Complex as pitchers and catchers take part in their first workouts of the spring. 

But Manuel has already made a trip to Clearwater to get first-hand progress reports on a few of the Phillies most important players. Shortly after getting inducted into the All Sports Museum of Southern New Jersey in Bridgeton on Monday, Manuel gave his personal scouting reports on Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.

Manuel was in Clearwater just a week ago.

"(Halladay) looks real good. He looks strong," Manuel said of his two-time Cy Young Award winner, who missed almost two months last summer to a right shoulder injury. "I could tell he’s been doing some work with his upper body, his back and shoulders. He looked a little bigger and stronger. ...  Halladay of course has thrown a lot of bullets. But at the same time, too, I think the time he’s had off and the conditioning program he’s been on, if anybody can bounce back and do it, I think it’s Halladay.

Manuel also saw Howard taking live batting practice, something that the first baseman did sparingly while coming off Achilles' surgery last spring.

"I saw him hit," Manuel said.  "He said his Achilles’ doesn’t hurt him and he said his ankle is much better."

Utley, who hasn't played a game in either of the last two spring trainings, was not in Clearwater when Manuel visited. But head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan happened to be working out with Utley in Northern California last week and he sent Charlie a DVD of one of Utley's workouts.

"He looked good," Manuel said. "It showed him exercising, jumping and grasping at this bar, things like that, and he really looked like he was in good shape. He emailed me at Christmas and said, “You’re going to have a healthy second baseman.” Knowing him, that’s means a whole lot."

One other interesting tidbit came from Manuel's comments on Monday.

Manuel has pretty much been married to three spots in his lineup when he has had a healthy lineup: Jimmy Rollins at leadoff, Utley third and Howard fourth. But on Monday he at least opened up the conversation to using new third baseman Micheal Young to split Utley and Howard.

"I’ve always looked at Utley as a third hole hitter, but it depends on how good (we are) or how we set up," Manuel said. "I could hit Utley second and Young third, but at the same time I don’t know. I like Young second or third."