How does Utley leave the team for Phoenix on March 19 to see a physical therapist just a few days after general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. guaranteed he would be his Opening Day second baseman and Utley himself said he planned to be on the field within the week? How are there optimistic reports about Utley's health from the beginning of Spring Training through the middle of March only to have Utley say Sunday he is sidelined indefinitely?
Amaro, assistant general manager Scott Proefrock and a team spokesman met with Phillies beat reporters for 30 minutes following Monday's 6-0 loss to the Red Sox at Bright House Field, where they tried to explain the disconnect.
"We're not giving you the information to try to deceive or create more speculation," Amaro said. "We're trying to be as respectful to some of our players as we can possibly be. And at the same time, we're trying to give you as much information as we can. We don't have anything to gain from hiding information from you guys."
Utley missed the first 46 games last season because of pain in his right knee. The expectation had been that a new offseason training program would have Utley healthy and ready to play when Spring Training started. Amaro said he spoke with Utley frequently in the offseason and Utley said his knees felt fine, which is what Utley also said during a Feb. 23 news conference at Bright House Field.
But Utley started to feel pain in his left knee relatively early in camp. The Phillies told him to pull back his workouts, but they said they continued to believe he could be back on the field in enough time to be ready for Opening Day on April 5.
But Utley never felt better, and on March 18 he told Amaro he needed to leave.
"We honestly thought ... he was going to be our everyday, Opening Day second baseman," Amaro said. "He did not feel comfortable enough, and he came into spring very, very optimistic, ready to go. He did some things, as I said before, on the field that I think made him feel uncomfortable, and it never really got better. We thought it was going to get better and it never really did. So it got to the point where the plan we had implemented wasn't going to work anymore.
"We were going to have to slow him down, not have him play, much like we did with Dutch [Darren Daulton] years ago, just to take some of the heat off his legs. Really, that was the plan. When all of a sudden he got to the point where he wasn't going to be able to do his work in the field and he was uncomfortable doing it, then we had to change the plan. He decided he thought it was a good idea to see a particular specialist. He came back pretty optimistic, but cautiously optimistic."
Amaro said he believes there is good communication between Utley and the team's medical staff. The Phillies said Utley simply woke up one day and decided he could not get himself ready for Opening Day.
Utley is a private person, indifferent to the fact he is a highly popular public figure, arguably the best position player on the team and that fans care about him and his health. He specifically instructed the Phillies not to inform reporters he traveled to Phoenix on March 19, though he eventually told reporters he was in Arizona visiting physical therapist Brett Fischer after he had been spotted in Phoenix.
"Chase wants to keep as much information as possible quiet," Amaro said. "I respect that. I think what Chase told you is exactly what's happening with him."
The Phillies have offered no timetable on Utley's potential return or Ryan Howard's potential return. Howard is recovering from left Achilles tendon surgery.
"Here's the deal on timetables and setbacks and all that business," Amaro said. "I can give you a firm date -- July 27. He's going to be on the field and playing. If he comes back before then, great, but if something were to happen, if the guy tweaks his neck, it's a setback and we end up looking like a bunch of idiots. I don't have any idea when these guys will be back, I really don't. I hope they'll be back tomorrow. I want them back the day after tomorrow."
But Amaro recently offered a four-to-six-week timetable for Michael Martinez's return. He broke his right foot last week.
"A break is different from what these guys have," Amaro said. "With these issues, they're so ambiguous you just don't know. My doctors don't give me a timeline. If doctors don't know, how can I? ... But the thing you guys have to understand is it doesn't do me any good to make more news about our players. Sometimes we don't know. We just don't know. I wish I did."
Amaro was asked if he felt the fans have a right to know more about a player's health.
"I don't have a problem with that, giving as much information as possible," Amaro said. "I'm not trying to deceive anybody. Why would I lie to the public? How is that going to make the organization's relationship with the public better? What benefit would I have to tell you Chase is fine when I know that he's not? What good does that do for us? We pride ourselves on having a pretty good relationship with our fans. There's no real benefit for us to lie to them. Where is the benefit?"
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less