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News » Phils' Utley may return for Opening Day

Phils' Utley may return for Opening Day

Phils' Utley may return for Opening Day
CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) - Though the Philadelphia Phillies just started spring training, the World Series champs got a piece of good news Thursday.

Second baseman Chase Utley, who had surgery on his right hip Nov. 24, is far ahead of the original prognosis, which was he'd be out for to six months.

He just started hitting soft tosses and taking swings off a tee.

Of course, Utley dedicated himself to his rehab and was taking grounders with the rest of his teammates when the Phillies held their first full-squad workout this spring. He's optimistic he'll be ready for Opening Day against Atlanta on April 5.

"I think it's pretty realistic at this point," Utley said. "We've pushed it since I've been down here and it's responded extremely well. We're not overdoing it yet, but we're putting it to a good pace and I think we're all pretty comfortable with it."

Utley batted .292 with 104 RBIs and a career-high 33 homers last year, despite playing through pain most of the season. After a strong start, his production tailed off drastically. Utley hit .352 in April, but his average dropped to .279 over the last five months. He had 12 homers in the final 103 games after belting 21 in the first 59.

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Though people knew Utley was hurting down the stretch, he never let on. He shrugged off any questions about his hip and kept plugging along.

"The last thing I wanted to be was a distraction, especially at the end of the year when we were playing so well," he said. "I always felt like I had an opportunity to help the team. Not every day I helped, but I felt like I had a small part in that at least. It's a learning experience, but we got through it. I don't know how it's going to change anything I do in the future. I guess we'll see."

The 30-year-old Utley didn't become an everyday starter until June 2005. He hit .291 with 28 homers and 105 RBIs that year. In '06, Utley batted .309 with 32 homers and 102 RBIs. That earned him an $85 million, seven-year contract extension. Utley had a career-best .332 average, 22 homers and 103 RBIs in '07, though he missed a month with a broken hand.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: February 20, 2009

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