Utley back in camp, but Phils' infield still in flux
Second baseman's status uncertain after visit to specialist
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Man of Mystery returned to Phillies camp Friday.
Chase Utley rejoined the team after leaving Monday for Arizona to have a specialist examine his chronically injured knees. Utley has not played in a Grapefruit League game this month and has been unable to practice since late last month because of pain in his knees.
Is there good news or bad news from the visit?
"No news," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "I don't really have anything for you on Chase other than he's back."
Utley said he will speak to reporters Sunday, so perhaps he will shed some light on his future then. But Utley is extraordinarily tight-lipped about his health, which is why the Phillies have been mostly mum about his status. So it is quite possible little is learned, other than Utley hopes to be back at some point this season, which remains the expectation inside the organization.
But it remains likely Utley will open the season on the disabled list, and Freddy Galvis will be the Opening Day second baseman.
"He's ready to play defensively at the very least," Amaro said of Galvis. "And that's an important element for us, especially in the middle of the infield. He's not a finished product, but at least for now he's a guy that's as good as we're going to get."
Utley's uncertain status and Ryan Howard's setback following left Achilles surgery has Phillies fans on edge with Opening Day less than two weeks away. To make matters worse, third baseman Placido Polanco has not played since Saturday because of a sprained left ring finger, although he is expected to be ready before Opening Day, and utility infielder Michael Martinez fractured his right foot Tuesday. He is expected to miss the next six to eight weeks, which leaves the Phillies with so few infielders in camp they just called up Minor League infielder Tim Kennelly to give them another body for games.
The Phillies seem unlikely to acquire an everyday infielder at the moment, but they could be in the market for a utility infielder. It would not be a surprise to see them claim a veteran infielder released by another team before the end of Spring Training.
"We're keeping our eyes open on middle-infield depth," Amaro said. "We could do it internally, but it behooves us to make sure that we keep an eye out on what's going on out there as far as guys that might be available, guys that might be able to help us."
If the season opened Friday, Pete Orr would be the team's utility infielder. He is not a shortstop, but if something happened to Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies would move Galvis from second to short and have Orr play second.
Pretty much every available infielder on the market has been linked to the Phillies in recent days, but the team is unlikely to trade some of its starting pitching depth -- Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick are frequently mentioned -- or top prospects to fill a hole, again, because the Phillies believe Utley and Howard are not lost for the season.
The Phillies also are close or just past the $178 million luxury tax threshold, which is a major issue when it comes to adding a player with a sizable salary.
"I don't think it does us much good to move any pitching right now," Amaro said. "I'd rather keep everything. I'd rather keep my pitching right now, especially with the way we are health-wise. I still want to keep our strength a strength."
If everybody were healthy, the Phillies would have another strength in the infield with four former All-Stars. But it could be a while before those four are back on the field together. And that has some Phillies fans worried.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.