PHILADELPHIA -- Do not be surprised to see Chase Utley back in the Phillies' lineup before the end of their nine-game homestand, and Domonic Brown back in Philadelphia in a few weeks.
The Phillies have not made those predictions publicly, but both scenarios make sense. The homestand ends May 26. Utley, who began a rehab assignment May 10, must be activated no later than May 30 unless he is physically unable to play. He was scheduled to play nine innings Wednesday and Thursday with Class A Clearwater, which is a good sign his return is near.
"He's been pretty good," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said.
Amaro said it is tempting to bring Utley back early, but he needs at-bats after missing Spring Training while recovering from right knee tendinitis. Amaro would not say how many at-bats Utley needs, but he had 32 at-bats through Tuesday, including two extended spring games.
"We've got to do what's right for Chase," Amaro said.
Brown, who broke his hand swinging at a pitch during Spring Training, is back in the Triple-A Lehigh Valley lineup after missing a few games because of a thumb injury. He went 1-for-2 with two walks and two RBIs in his return Tuesday, and he knocked in the winning run with a hit Wednesday. Brown is hitting .341 with two home runs, 10 RBIs and a .968 OPS in 41 at-bats for the IronPigs.
Phillies right fielders have a .711 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage), which ranks 15th in the National League. Phillies left fielders have a .659 OPS, which ranks 14th. If the Phillies do not start getting more production from their corner outfielders, they will have no choice but to promote Brown if he keeps hitting.
"He's swinging the bat better," Amaro said of Brown. "He just needs to keep playing. He's got to get reps and get in a position to be ready. When it's time to come to the big leagues he's got to be ready to be a big league player. He'll be in the big leagues at some point. It's kind of a matter of time."
For Utley and Brown, it seems to be sooner rather than later.