Phillies react to being without Utley

Phillies react to being without Utley

Phillies react to being without Utley
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Shane Victorino slowly exhaled when he heard Chase Utley is sidelined indefinitely with chronic knee pain.

It is not good news.

"I'm very concerned," Victorino said during Wednesday's 5-3 victory over the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium. "It's just another unfortunate thing for him. Not only for him, but for all of us. We really depend on Chase as a player and as a leader. He is a guy that is very dependable and a guy you call a gamer, a guy that just grinds and gets after it. There's a vocal leader and there's a leader that leads by example. And that's what you're going to lose."

The Phillies have two big holes to fill in their lineup with 23 days remaining before Opening Day. They already knew they had to find somebody to replace Jayson Werth, who hit fifth last season behind Ryan Howard. But they now have to find somebody to hit third, a spot Utley has anchored for years when healthy.

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Utley is not expected to be ready to play come Opening Day on April 1. He is unable to run or field ground balls, and there are no indications he is anywhere close to doing those things in the immediate future.

There is no timetable for his return.

"From an offensive and defensive standpoint, we lost Utley and Werth," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "We've got to go find two real good players. I'm not saying we can't do it, because things work sometimes for you. You've still got to go out there and play, and you can't make any excuses and all that. You've heard me talk that way before. We're talking about two All-Star players."

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said he is not looking outside the organization to replace Utley.

"I leave that up to the front office," Manuel said. "They've been very good at seeing what we need and try to help us in that respect for the past three or four years."

Utley missed a month in 2007 because of a broken right hand. He missed nearly two months last season because of surgery on his right thumb. But in both those cases, the Phillies had an idea when Utley might return. This time, nobody knows, which makes this more troubling.

"Unfortunately, it's been a road we've traveled down before," Howard said. "You want Chase to get better, take his time to get better and make sure he's 100 percent when he gets back. We've got to have a guy come in and fill in for him. We've just got to continue to push and be ready for the season."

"We had a lot of injuries last year and we were able to pull through them," Joe Blanton said. "We feel we have a lineup where one guy doesn't make our lineup. We have Jimmy [Rollins] at the top. Shane, Polly [Placido Polanco], Howie, Raul [Ibanez]. These guys can hit. That's a handful of names I just listed right there."

It is mentioned to Howard that Amaro said he expects Utley to play at some point this season.

"I know he will," Howard said. "That's just Chase."

"Hopefully it's something he can overcome," Victorino said.