Chase Utley has already missed the Phillies’ first 62 games this season, but he’s finally progressing enough that it appears possible he'll return to play in most of their remaining 100.
After getting through a pair of extended spring training games, the veteran second baseman has been cleared to begin a rehab assignment with High-A Clearwater Tuesday. Utley will initially serve as Clearwater’s designated hitter before working his way into second base duty. He has a 20-day window of rehab games, and it sounds like Utley will use most or all of those days.
"He's got to get enough defensive innings where he's comfortable physically and has a rhythm in the field," general manager Ruben Amaro said. "He also needs enough at-bats to be comfortable and in a rhythm at the plate. I'm glad he's started and, unless there is an issue, he should be able to help us in the early part of July."
It’s tough to predict how Utley’s knee will handle game action at second base, as he’s almost surely going to have to play with some level of pain even in a best-case scenario. The knee isn’t really an issue in the batter’s box, though, making him a viable roster stash if he’s currently sitting on your waiver wire.
Strained Oblique Sidelines Morrow
Brandon Morrow entered Monday’s outing against the Nationals coming off his league-leading third shutout of the season and in the midst of what has been shaping up as a career year.
His night ended after nine pitches.
The hard-throwing right-hander suffered a strained left oblique while pitching to the second batter of the game, and Blue Jays manager John Farrell referred to the injury as "probably substantial" and said Morrow was in "considerable pain." Although the team has yet to officially make a move, Morrow is almost surely headed to the disabled list, and a minimum stay on the DL is probably unlikely.
Since Morrow isn’t on the DL yet, we obviously don’t know for sure who will take his spot in the rotation. Aaron Laffey was promoted after the game, though, and he’s an option. Also under consideration figure to be Joel Carreno and Brett Cecil, who has rebounded lately at Triple-A Las Vegas after a slow start.
Good News for Carp
The Cardinals have been itching for some good injury news, and they finally got some with Chris Carpenter.
Carp’s shoulder is feeling good enough that he’s ready to test it out on the mound sometime later this week.
"Where I'm at right now compares to where I'm at when I start preparing myself to go to spring training," Carpenter said in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I've been doing everything: strengthening my upper body, running, everything. I feel great."
If all goes well, Carpenter is expected back in about five weeks, which would put him in line to rejoin the rotation at the start of the second half. Now, given that he hasn’t thrown from the bump since spring training, there’s no telling how he’s going to feel. He’s been long-tossing without any issues, though, offering hope that the veteran right-hander can help fantasy teams after the All-Star break.
National League Quick Hits: Word spread late Monday night that the Dodgers and Andre Ethier might be close to a five-year, $85 million extension. The contract would also include a vesting option for 2018 which could bring the overall value to over $100 million. If the deal goes through, it would take one of the premium bats off next winter's free agent market ... Most have viewed the Cubs as the team to beat for Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler, and on Monday it was indeed the Cubs that landed the 20-year-old with a nine-year, $30 million contract. Soler, who has the ability to opt out of the deal when he’s arbitration-eligible, is likely to begin his professional career at the Low-A level … Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said there’s no timetable for Matt Kemp’s (hamstring) return. It seems safe to say that we probably won’t see him until July … Brandon Beachy’s next start will be pushed back a few days due to some minor elbow soreness. It doesn’t appear to be a big concern at this point … Drew Storen threw off a mound Monday for the second time since elbow surgery. He’s still aiming to rejoin the Nationals bullpen around the All-Star break … Ted Lilly (shoulder) has yet to resume throwing. He has no structural damage, though, so it shouldn’t be too long before he ramps up the activity … Tim Hudson (ankle) made it through a bullpen session Monday and has been cleared to rejoin the rotation Wednesday … Placido Polanco (finger laceration) was able to take batting practice Monday and could return to the lineup Tuesday after missing five games … Roger Bernadina left Monday’s game with a right hamstring injury. He’s considered day-to-day for now … Josh Johnson spun seven innings of one-run ball against the Red Sox Monday, striking out seven. He’s now posted a quality start six of the last seven times out, lowering his ERA from 6.61 to 4.27 over that stretch.
American League Quick Hits: Jered Weaver (back) threw 30 pitches off the front of the mound Monday and will throw a full bullpen session Tuesday before participating in a simulated game by the end of the week. Assuming all goes well, he should rejoin the Angels rotation next week … Sergio Santos experienced renewed discomfort in his right shoulder following a bullpen session last week. What was originally deemed as a relatively minor injury has now cost the closer over seven weeks, and he’s still out indefinitely … Brett Gardner will receive a third opinion on his right elbow Thursday and could possibly need surgery. It’s not clear how long an operation would sideline him, but Gardner will be out through the All-Star break regardless … Carl Crawford (elbow) thinks he’s still at least a week or two away from returning to game action. He was only recently cleared to resume throwing … Dustin McGowan’s (shoulder) throwing program has been slowed, and it’s unclear when he’ll be ready to throw from a mound … Daniel Bard allowed one run on a hit and a walk while striking out two in his first relief outing for Triple-A Pawtucket Monday … Rafael Soriano was unavailable to pitch Monday due to a blister issue but expects to be ready to roll Tuesday.