Chase Utley made an important step -- or several -- on his hopeful return from chronic right knee pain. For the first time since being shut down when the exhibition schedule started in late February with knee pain, Utley went through running drills Thursday afternoon.
"He's progressing as he tolerates," assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said before the Phillies' 4-0 win over the Nationals. "And if he said he is OK trying to run, obviously he felt good enough to do that. We'll see how he feels (Friday), that's really the true test of his he's progressing."
Utley was not available for comment.
The five-time All-Star has made a handful of progressions since the Phillies decided the best way to treat his ailing knee was through rest and rehab, not surgery.
On the weekend before the Phillies broke camp in Clearwater, Fla., Utley began taking ground balls. In the first week of the regular season, Utley added new work to the fielding drills, including working in a double play pivot at second base.
On Thursday, he took several steps forward with what is arguably the toughest task: running. He went through shuttle drills, moving laterally in both directions. Later, he ran from first to third base. In the first-to-third drill, Utley ran at moderate speed between first and second before turning it up to game-type speed after making the turn at second and heading toward third.
"He's slowly getting better, he's slowly feeling better," manager Charlie Manuel said. "Hopefully he keeps going that way, too."
The Phillies do not have a time table for Utley's return. When he is healthy enough to play in games, Utley will likely go on a somewhat extended minor league rehab assignment since he hasn't faced live pitching since October.
Utley began the season on the 15-day disabled list. The 32-year-old Utley was limited to 115 games in 2010 after breaking his right thumb in June. He has undergone three surgeries for various ailments in the last four years.
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