PHILADELPHIA -- Second baseman Chase Utley is giving the Phillies a reason to be quietly optimistic that he can come back from the chronic knee problems that have cost him a large chunk of the last two seasons and have a big year in 2013.
With a single and a home run in Sunday's 5-4 win over the D-backs, Utley already has seven homers in 30 games since being activated from the disabled list with bilateral chondromalacia, a softening and and breakdown of the cartilage under the kneecap. After missing the first two months last season, Utley came back but had just six homers in 103 games.
"I feel like I've built more strength in my legs," Utley said. "I still feel like I can get them stronger. So we'll see. I think I'm driving the ball better. I think my at-bats are a little bit better. I feel a little bit stronger.
Said manager Charlie Manuel: "His swing is pretty good. When you see him taking balls down and away and hitting them hard to right field, that's staying on the baseball and being prepared. That's real good. He's been hitting the ball on the fat part of the bat."
Utley has reached base by a hit or walk in 18 of his 21 games since the All-Star break.