Utley: "I'll be ready to go"

(Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP)

Chase Utley has said all along that he would be ready for opening day. Now, he believes that he can be playing in Grapefruit League games in about two weeks, putting him well ahead of schedule.

There's a running gag through the Tom Hanks movie "Money Pit", where he continually asks the contractor when his house will be finished; "two weeks" is the constant reply, even after months of work.

It figures that Chase Utley has the line down if they ever want to cast him to play the contractor in a remake. "Two weeks" is Utley's latest prediction on when he'll be ready. Unlike the contractor though, he means it.

After all, it was Utley who said exactly when he would return from a broken bone in his hand in 2007 and followed through. Then, it was Utley who said he would be ready for opening day after off-season hip surgery, even though the medical professionals - who now agree with the diagnosis - scoffed. So, when Utley says he'll be ready to play in games in two weeks, it's believable.

Athletes are supposed to know their bodies, but Utley knows his in a freakish way.

The surgery was supposed to sideline Utley from anywhere between four and six months. The initial thought was that if all went well, he could make a rehab assignment shortly after the start of the season and be with the club by the end of April, but that was a little energetic according to some. If he were to play in a game in two weeks, that would have him returning about a week under the four month mark.

"I've been down here [Clearwater] for a month now and I'm working on a good progression," Utley told Chuck Gormley of the Courier-Post. "We're not putting an exact timetable on it but I think in two weeks I'll be ready to go."

In his time in Florida, Utley has progressed to the point where he's taking infield practice, including turning double-plays and is even taking live batting practice. That progression and the fact that he'll still have about two weeks of spring training games to play in, make it very likely that he'll be at or very near to 100% on opening day.

Utley has been very careful not to aggravate the injury and is working with Phillies guest instructor Mickey Morandini on changing how he pivots on double-plays to help protect the hip. So far, the work hasn't translated into changes for Utley, who still prefers his old style, but he's at least keeping an open mind to the change.


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