Chase Utley ran through a series of sprints in the outfield Thursday at Petco Park before the Phillies began a four-game series with the Padres. But Utley, sidelined with chronic right knee pain, likely won't be on the field as a functioning player any time in the near future.
When asked about the steps he's taken in fielding drills, both with more reps and more movement, Utley answered with caution.
"From Day One until now, it's been a little bit of a progression, taking more, moving a little bit more," Utley told the Delaware County (Pa.) Daily Times. "But it's still going to be a slow process, unfortunately."
Utley has been out of action for eight weeks with tendinitis, chondromalacia and bone inflammation in his right knee. He's been able to take batting practice while resting and rehabbing his knee.
Although he's added fielding work and running since the Phillies left spring training three weeks ago, Utley didn't sound ready for a minor league rehab assignment.
"That's the goal, but that's definitely not the next step," Utley said before the Phillies' 3-0 win over the Padres. "The next step is just to continue doing what I'm doing and hope that it responds well. So far it has."
Utley played in a career-low 115 games in 2010 after breaking his right thumb in late June. He's had three surgeries in the last four seasons.
With his current ailment, Utley is practicing patience and sounds as if he won't return until his knee is completely healed.
"At this point, we've been patient with it so far," Utley told the Daily Times. "So I don't see a reason to change that."