Originally posted on Phillies Nation  |  Last updated 6/21/12

Will Chase return next week? (AP)

Charlie Manuel said before Thursday’s series finale against the Rockies that Chase Utley could be back next week if all continues to go well.

Manuel says it’s all about feeling comfortable in the field for Utley, who is DH-ing and batting third for Clearwater again tonight. He played eight innings in the field on Wednesday and hit a home run, so obviously people in the organization are getting a little antsy thinking about what could be.

If anything, it’s almost certain Utley will return to the team when his rehab stint expires on July 2. But it’s starting to sound like he could be ahead of schedule and possibly in the Phillies lineup before the end of this month.

I asked Manuel if he lets himself think about a lineup with Utley and Ryan Howard in it, and he basically admitted that he’s wondered about it a time or two. He said with them in the lineup you’ll see more “fast runs.” Part of the issue of this offense, although it has been rather good since May, is that the long ball is missing. Manuel hopes that will change a bit when his star infielders return.

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