CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The fact the Phillies have had any interest in Luis Castillo shows just how concerned they are about Chase Utley's right knee.
Castillo, who was released by the Mets on Friday, is expected to clear waivers Sunday. The Phillies could be in the mix to sign him, although Castillo has other suitors.
He would not be on the Phillies' radar at all if Utley were healthy. But Utley is expected to open the season on the disabled list because of patellar tendinits, chondromalacia and bone inflammation in his right knee. Utley has been unable to run or field ground balls since last month, and there are no indications he is close to resuming those activities.
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Utley could miss weeks or months of the season.
"Moving in the right direction," he said in brief comments before Sunday's game against the Yankees at Bright House Field.
Utley has not talked at length about his chronic knee pain since March 9. He left the team last week to see an unknown rehab specialist in an undisclosed location. The Phillies hope some of the exercises the specialist showed him help him return to the field.
"You know what? He's getting a little better," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "It's not coming real fast, but he's showing -- according to the doctors and trainers -- he's starting to get better. It seems like it's going to take a while, though."
Utley said his goal remains to avoid surgery. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said last week there is a reason Utley is working hard to avoid surgery.
"There are a lot of risks any time you have surgery," Amaro said. "And especially in this area with some of the things that are going on with his knee, there's a risk it would cause more damage."