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02/27/11 1:10 PM EST

MRI reveals Utley has tendinitis in right knee

Club plans to bring slugger along slowly to be ready for season

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Chase Utley hopes this is nothing more than a blip long forgotten come Opening Day.

The Phillies hope he is right.

On Saturday, Utley had an MRI exam on his right knee, which has kept him from playing in three Spring Training games. The results revealed patellar tendinitis. The Phillies have prescribed rest and slow progress with running, fielding and playing games.

Utley has not received a cortisone injection, and the second baseman said on Sunday morning at the Carpenter Complex that surgery has not been discussed.

"It was bothering him enough and bothering me enough, frankly, to go ahead and do that," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said of the MRI. "[The tendinitis] causes some soreness, and rather than really push him early here, we're going to kind of take it easy on him so there aren't residual effects during the course of the year. If he continues to aggravate it, it could get more painful."

Utley said that he has had tendinitis in the knee in the past, but it hasn't lasted this long. But he said if he felt this soreness during the season, he probably would play with it. In fact, he grinned when asked about it, indicating he has played with it in the past.

Utley said he started to feel some soreness in the knee during his offseason workouts. He said it does not bother him while hitting, only running and fielding.

"It's probably been here and there for a while now," Utley said. "There's no rhyme or reason to why it starts to flare up on me, but it is part of being an everyday player. ... I try to look at the big picture. I think we have hopefully 200 more games to play this year. I'd rather participate in the majority of them later on."

Asked how serious this is, Amaro said, "If he continues to aggravate it, it could get more painful. We're just trying to cool it down. He's very aggressive. He doesn't like to take time off. This is a way to get him to take a little time off.

"We just don't want it to get any worse. There's no reason for us to push him now and have it be a problem in May, June, July, August. So we're going to take it easy on him."

Amaro and Utley said there is no timetable for him to play in a Grapefruit League game, although Amaro said the time missed should not affect Utley's ability to play in Philadelphia's April 1 season opener against the Houston Astros at Citizens Bank Park. Utley so far has missed Thursday's exhibition against the Florida State Seminoles, Saturday's Grapefruit League opener against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., and Sunday's game against the Yankees at Bright House Field.

It seems unlikely he will play in any games early next week.

"It will be kind of a day-to-day thing," Amaro said.

Utley, 32, beats up his body over the course of the season. He routinely puts on 10-15 pounds in the offseason and loses it over the six-month, 162-game schedule. He has had hip surgery and battled knee problems. He broke his right hand in 2007 and had surgery on his right thumb last season.

Is this a case of Utley's style of playing catching up to him? It is a fair question to ask, considering that Utley will earn $15 million in each of the next three seasons.

"He just has to be careful," Amaro said. "He likes to work so hard. I worry about all of our guys. Chase is going to just keep grinding it out, and that's the way it's going to be. This is just trying to slow him down."

Amaro said that Utley is on board with resting.

"I think at this point, it's better to be safe than sorry," Utley said. "We're going to make some progressions, but the last thing we want to do is make it worse. We want to keep moving in the right direction, and I think by running on it and fielding on it, at this point, it wouldn't be beneficial.

"I'd rather miss some games here than miss games during the season. It's something that I've dealt with before. It's something I'm probably going to have to continue to maintain and keep an eye on."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.