Phillies know Utley would play if he could

Phillies know Utley would play if he could

Phillies know Utley would play if he could
TAMPA, Fla. -- Less than an hour before the Phillies boarded a bus for George M. Steinbrenner Field on Monday morning, Chase Utley remained in street clothes.

The second baseman's teammates had changed into red T-shirts and jerseys for the game or workouts back at Bright House Field, while Utley wore a black sweatshirt, black baseball cap and jeans. It stuck out because Utley is typically one of the first players at the ballpark every day, quickly changing into Phillies gear as he begins his work day.

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Utley has not played in the team's first 11 Grapefruit League games because of patellar tendinitis in his right knee. Having received a cortisone injection on Friday, he can take batting practice but cannot run or field ground balls. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said on Friday that the team would know if the shot was a success before the end of the weekend. Amaro said on Sunday that he would know within 24-48 hours.

"There's nothing new," Amaro said before Monday's 7-1 loss to the Yankees.

There is growing concern about Utley's right knee. He has had pain there before and has likely received other cortisone injections to ease it. But the inflammation resurfaced before Spring Training, which seems troubling, because Utley has not played baseball since October.

Utley's teammates are certainly aware of his injury, which has become the biggest issue in camp.

"This is not a backup player," third baseman Placido Polanco said. "We're very concerned, very concerned. I just hope he gets better soon, because we really need him. We're going to need him. We would miss him, without a doubt."

"I think he'll be fine," right-hander Roy Oswalt said. "I think it's Spring Training. They don't want to put him out there every day. I think it's no problem."

Utley has a deserved reputation as a player who plays through any kind of pain. He played most of the 2008 season with an injured hip that required surgery less than a month after the Phillies won the World Series. He likely played last season with tendinitis in the knee, too.

"That's what worries me," Polanco said. "I was talking to my wife the other day. I said, 'Man, that guy is a gamer. He's tough. He's got to be really hurting to not be playing.' That's why I'm a little worried. But I'm not a doctor. I don't know how bad it is. I just hope it's nothing bad."

"Chase is a guy who's out there every day and wants to play," first baseman Ryan Howard said. "You hope it's not something that is overly serious. You hope it's something that goes away so he can come in here and get some work to get ready for the season."

If Utley opens the season on the disabled list, the Phillies have a handful of players who can man second base. Infielders Wilson Valdez, Delwyn Young, Pete Orr, Josh Barfield, Michael Martinez and Brian Bocock are in camp. Valdez did an admirable job last season filling in for Utley and shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who both spent time on the DL. But there simply is no replacing Utley, who hits third in the lineup.

"It's a long season," Polanco said. "If that's the case, we'll miss him for sure. We have guys that can step up and do the job. But again, you're talking about the third batter [in the lineup]. He's a gamer, an MVP-type player. But let's not talk about it. Let's hope he comes back soon."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.