Utley could not take the field in the ninth inning Monday night in a 7-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park, shifting the focus from Kyle Kendrick's up-and-down night to Utley's health in a season in which getting healthy and staying healthy has been an impossible task for the Phillies.
Utley injured his right thumb sliding into second base, trying to stretch a single into a double in the fourth inning. He remained in the game until the ninth inning, when he had difficulty gripping the bat. Juan Castro pinch-hit for Utley.
How serious is it? The Phillies said they will know more Tuesday after Utley has a MRI.
Utley declined comment until after he has the MRI.
"But for him to leave a game ... that's the last guy that's going to take himself out of a game," Shane Victorino said. "He's obviously hurting. I hope he's not seriously hurt."
Ryan Howard echoed Victorino, nearly word for word.
"He's one of the last guys that's going to take himself out unless there's something that's really bothering him," he said.
Utley plays unless he really, truly can't play. He has been on the disabled list just once in his career: 2007, when a pitch broke his right wrist, forcing him to miss a month of the season. He played through a hip injury in '08, which required surgery less than a month following the World Series. Phillies first-base coach Davey Lopes then caused a stir earlier this month when he told Baseball Prospectus that Utley had been playing on an injured right knee. Utley, who loathes questions about injuries, denied he had an injury.
In fact, Utley has hit .395 (15-for-38) with one double, one triple, one home run and 11 RBIs in 10 games since he told everybody his knee, while admittedly sore on occasion, wasn't bothering him enough to keep him from the lineup.
Had he not tried to stretch the single into a double in the fourth, he might have scored following Howard's double to right-center field. Instead, the Phillies went to the bottom of the inning in a scoreless tie.
That's when the Reds struck. Kendrick had retired the first 10 batters he faced until Orlando Cabrera doubled with one out in the fourth. Cabrera was thrown out trying to steal third base, but Joey Votto followed with a double and Scott Rolen hit his 17th home run of the season, clanking it off the left-field foul pole to give the Reds a 2-0 lead. It was Rolen's 300th career homer.
Kendrick allowed two more runs in the sixth and two more runs in the seventh to make it 6-1.
"He was dealing there," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "It was looking like he had no-hit stuff. His pitch count was low and we were hitting some balls, but most of them on the ground. I'm just glad we got the hits and runs when we got them."
Kendrick is 1-1 with a 6.04 ERA (15 earned runs in 22 1/3 innings) in his past four starts, and 4-3 with a 4.88 ERA in his 16 appearances (15 starts) this season. Phillies left-hander J.A. Happ will make his fifth and possibly final rehab start Tuesday with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Happ will take somebody's spot in the rotation, and Kendrick is a candidate.
"I'm not happy about today, but I think I threw the ball a lot better," Kendrick said. "Obviously my numbers didn't show it, but I'm not worried about J.A. coming back. That's not my decision."
Utley's health is a more immediate concern.
He could show up at the ballpark Tuesday and say it is nothing serious. The Phillies certainly could use the break. Jimmy Rollins, Brad Lidge, Joe Blanton, J.C. Romero, Happ, Ryan Madson, Carlos Ruiz, Chad Durbin and Antonio Bastardo each have been on the disabled list this season. Other players like Placido Polanco and Juan Castro have missed time but have avoided the DL.
"It's a challenge," Victorino said. "That's what this game is about. Dig in deep. Keep plugging along."
"Amen to that," Howard chimed a few lockers away. "Hopefully, it's not a big injury, but we've kind of been bitten by that bug a little bit. This entire year, guys are banged up. We've got to find a way to try to weather the storm and make it into the All-Star break and get a couple days to kind of relax and rejuvenate the spirits and the soul."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less