NEW YORK -- If Chase Utley is back in the Phillies' lineup next week, those who know him best will be impressed, but not surprised.
Sources said Friday that Utley, who had surgery July 1 to repair a torn tendon in his right thumb, is ahead of schedule and could rejoin the team as early as Tuesday against the San Francisco Giants at Citizens Bank Park. CBSSports.com first reported Utley told teammates he hoped to rejoin the team Tuesday.
Asked Friday night if Utley could play in a rehab game Saturday with Class A Clearwater, Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said, "It depends how he feels."
Another source said Utley could play Saturday.
Utley tore the ligament in his right thumb June 28 in Cincinnati. He had surgery three days later, and the Phillies estimated it would take him eight weeks to recover, which would have put him back in the lineup around Sept. 1.
But Utley has been a quick healer in the past. He had hip surgery following the 2008 World Series. The Phillies estimated a four-to-six-month recovery period, which meant he might not have been back until late May 2009.
Utley was playing in Spring Training games in March and was in the '09 Opening Day lineup.
But how much time will Utley need to get ready? When he missed a month with a broken right hand in 2007, he went 1-for-10 in just three rehab games before rejoining the Phillies. He hit .321 with seven doubles, two triples, five home runs, 21 RBIs and a .916 OPS in 32 games to finish the season.
Clearwater plays at home at Bright House Field on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. If Utley needs just three games again, he could play with the Threshers and return to Philadelphia on Tuesday for a big series against the Giants.