The Phillies have been held to three or fewer runs in 18 of their 35 games this season -- more than half. Only one of the bottom five hitters in Tuesday's lineup was hitting over .240. With Chase Utley sidelined, their second basemen rank last in the National League in home runs (zero), RBI (eight) and OPS (.561).
With all of that said, manager Charlie Manuel received good news on Tuesday. Utley, who has been sidelined with chronic right knee pain since the Grapefruit League schedule opened in late February, began an official rehab assignment at Class A Clearwater Tuesday night. Utley went 1-for-4 with a single.
But more important than the stats was the beginning of an official rehab assignment. Utley has to be activated within 20 days, meaning he'll join the Phillies no later than May 30.
Ever since Utley was diagnosed with right knee tendinitis in early March, the Phillies have gone day-to-day without their five-time All-Star second baseman, with no timetable laid out. Now there is a timetable, along with a chance that Utley could join the team even sooner than the 20-day window.
"That's good. I want him back as soon as possible," Manuel said. "I never wanted him to get hurt."
Utley is scheduled to take Wednesday off in Clearwater. He'll be back in the lineup Thursday, along with two other rehabbing Phillies: right-handed pitcher Roy Oswalt and catcher Carlos Ruiz, who have both been battling back injuries.
Manuel knows the return of Utley will help get his sluggish lineup in better order.
"One person can mean a lot, that can have a lot of an affect on it, especially when you're the caliber player that Chase is," Manuel said.
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