Utley expected in Phillies' lineup 'pretty soon'

Utley expected in Phillies' lineup 'pretty soon'

Utley expected in Phillies' lineup 'pretty soon'
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The biggest mystery in Clearwater this spring is Chase Utley.

Why isn't he playing?

Why can't a guy that hasn't played a game since October even take fielding practice?

The Phillies said last month they planned to bring along Utley slowly, but they never said he would miss the team's first 13 Grapefruit League games or be unable to run or take grounders. That has raised serious concern that Utley's right knee remains a major issue, which wouldn't be good considering Utley had the worst year of his career last season.

But Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said after Wednesday's 6-4 loss to the Twins at Bright House Field that Utley could see his first game action in the near future.

"I'd say it's coming up pretty soon," Manuel said. "It's going to be a few days yet, but then he'll start pushing his workouts up."

Is there a tentative date for Utley to play?

"He's going to get going here pretty soon," Manuel said. "When he starts, he'll start getting some live pitching and we'll see where he's at."

It's unclear if that means Utley will be in a Grapefruit League game next week, or if he will begin full workouts next week. But the Phils have said recently they expect Utley to be their Opening Day second baseman.

Utley has not talked about his chronic right knee condition since the first week of camp, so his thoughts on his health remain a mystery. Maybe more will be revealed in the coming days, like Manuel said,