Philadelphia Phillies: Chase Utley's Knee Injury Forces Him to Leave Camp

Ian CasselberryMLB Lead WriterMarch 19, 2012

Chase Utley played in 103 games in 2011 for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Chase Utley played in 103 games in 2011 for the Philadelphia Phillies.Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Just a few days after Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro said Chase Utley would be ready for Opening Day, the second baseman's status for the season opener is in doubt. 

Utley left the Phillies' camp in Clearwater Monday morning due to the chronic tendinitis in his knees not improving. He'll be examined by a specialist who will attempt to determine why Utley's rehab has hit what the team called a "plateau."

As reported by CSNPhilly's Jim Salisbury, Amaro did clarify that Utley would be treated with stretching and alignment exercises, rather than undergoing any kind of procedure to alleviate the problem. He's expected to be back in Clearwater on Thursday. 

After expressing hopes that he would be back on the field in a week, Utley will now likely begin the season on the disabled list for the second consecutive year. 

Initially, it was believed that Utley's right knee was giving him the most trouble, but he's experiencing pain in both knees. In fact, the left knee might be worse right now. Amaro went on to explain exactly what's going on in those knees, for anyone wondering why he hasn't been able to play:

He’s got bad knees. He’s got a cartilage issue. You can’t grow cartilage. So it’s partially tendinitis and partially a cartilage issue. So hopefully we can get him to the point where he’s feeling confident about playing on it.

Last year, Utley's knees cost him the first 46 games of the season, as he went on to play in only 103 games and batted just .259/.344/.425 with 11 home runs and 44 RBI.

With Utley sidelined and Ryan Howard out with the Achilles tendon he tore last October, the Phillies are facing the possibility of beginning the 2012 season with an infield that consists of Ty Wigginton at first base, rookie Freddy Galvis at second, Jimmy Rollins at shortstop and Placido Polanco playing third.

Although, Polanco's status could also be doubtful after he sprained his left ring finger on Saturday. X-rays revealed no break, however, so Polanco is expected to be back in the lineup within a couple of days. 

That leaves utility man Michael Martinez as the last player standing who could fill in at second or third. In a pinch, Wigginton could conceivably slide over to second while Jim Thome plays first base—something he hasn't done in four years.

So, the Phillies might be facing the need to trade for some infield help. David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News offered a few suggestions last week.