Utley returns, makes season debut Monday

Utley returns, makes season debut Monday

Utley returns, makes season debut Monday
PHILADELPHIA -- Chase Utley is back.

He rejoined the Phillies on Sunday morning at Citizens Bank Park and will be activated from the disabled list before Monday night's series opener against the Reds.

The Phils already made space for him on the 25-man roster when they optioned infielder Pete Orr to Triple-A Lehigh Valley following Sunday's 2-0 loss to the Texas Rangers at Citizens Bank Park.

Utley, who will be hitting third against the Reds, has missed the entire season recovering from patellar tendinitis in his right knee. It has been a tedious rehab, but the Phillies said the knee has responded favorably in nine rehab games with Class A Clearwater. Team physician Michael Ciccotti and head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan examined Utley on Sunday, and following a positive review decided to activate him.

Utley did not speak to reporters Sunday.

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"Of course, it's great when you have a player of Chase's caliber," left fielder Raul Ibanez said. "Not only what he does for you on the field, but also in the clubhouse. It's a big boost for us."

The Phils have scored three or fewer runs in nine consecutive games, so they certainly can use their No. 3 hitter. If Utley produces like he has in the past, he will fill a major void in the lineup.

But nobody really knows how effective Utley will be upon his return. Manager Charlie Manuel said this weekend he is unsure how many games Utley will be able to play because of his condition. The club does not want to overplay Utley early and find him unavailable late in the season or postseason, when he's needed most.

Manuel said he trusts Utley to tell him the truth about how his health.

"I know him," Manuel said. "His word is good."

But Utley has played through injuries in the past, so what makes Manuel believe Utley will come clean if he needs a day off?

"This is different," Manuel said. "He sees this as something ... we want to make sure we have him the rest of the season and we want to make sure we have him for a few years. Knowing him like I do and how I can talk to him, we know each other and I think he'll be totally honest with me."

Utley's health and productivity will play out over the course of the season. But for now, Utley is in Philadelphia and he is playing Monday. Beyond that, nobody really knows what is going to happen. But if the Phillies can avoid further injuries and Shane Victorino returns from the disabled list as early as June 3, the Phillies could have their everyday lineup for the first time this season in a couple of weeks.

"Once we get Chase and Victorino back, our lineup is going to be much better," Manuel said. "If you put [Josh] Hamilton and [Nelson] Cruz back in Texas' lineup, they get real better, too. So we'll get better."