Circumstances won't hasten Utley's return

Circumstances won't hasten Utley's return

Circumstances won't hasten Utley's return
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Some eyes in Philadelphia may have turned south to this part of Florida on Tuesday when they saw the news that Phillies second baseman Freddy Galvis was suspended 50 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.

But Chase Utley, continuing his rehab assignment with Class A Clearwater, isn't going to rush his comeback from a chronic left knee injury that's kept him off the field all season. Utley played six innings at second base for the Threshers on Monday, as scheduled, then returned to the designated hitter spot Tuesday night, going 1-for-3 with a walk.

Utley flied out to right field after an eight-pitch at-bat, drew a walk on five pitches, lined a single to center field and grounded out to first base on Tuesday night at Bright House Field, and he looked fine running the bases. More importantly, he said he felt no soreness in his knee a day after playing second base for the first time in a Class A game.

"It's feeling pretty good," Utley said. "I played [Monday] in the field, woke up this morning and it was feeling like it did the day before, which is a positive sign. ... This whole time I've been down here, it's responded well, which is good."

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said he didn't think Utley would need to exhaust all of the allotted 20 days of his rehab assignment, meaning he should be back with the Major League club before July 2.

Utley, who is 3-for-20 with three singles, three walks and four strikeouts in five games for Clearwater, isn't committing to a date for his return, instead stressing a desire to go about this process the right way.

Utley isn't quite ready to play nine innings at second base, nor is he going to play the field on back-to-back days just yet. He hoped to play six or seven innings at second base Wednesday night, building up to the point where he can play nine innings, then eventually do so on consecutive nights.

When asked if he could play second base two days in a row right now, Utley responded, "Could I? Possibly. But at this point, I think it's better to be safe than sorry and just take it in a step-by-step direction."

That means not rushing through his rehab and back to the Majors just because the Phillies are five games below .500 and last in the National League East, or because Galvis, who was already on the disabled list with a fracture in his back, is now out of the picture for 50 games.

"Obviously, I want to be back. I didn't want to be in this position in the first place, but I think we're making strides down here to get back up to the big leagues," Utley said. "I'm just trying to get some at-bats down here and get in the field and feel comfortable and make small progressions every day, and so far, we've done that."

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.