CLEARWATER, Fla. — Chase Utley is a hard man to find at Bright House Field. He has not played a single inning in a single Grapefruit League game, with Opening Day just three weeks away. He has not fielded a ground ball during batting practice or participated in fielding drills in weeks. He plays catch and takes BP, but seems to spend the rest of his time in the trainer’s room in the Phillies ‘clubhouse.
Baseball people use the phrase “baseball shape” a lot. Ryan Howard, for example, needs to get in shape once the protective boot is removed from his left foot. But he also needs to get in baseball shape, where he readies himself for the strains and pounding the body takes on the field, while also readying himself to hit big league pitching. Utley, who suffers from a chronic right knee condition, has exactly three weeks to get himself in baseball shape, but there is no word exactly when that process will begin, although Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said Wednesday it could be soon.