Prior to his 2011 debut - he's hitting second in tonight's lineup - Utley stood on the cutout between the on-deck circle and the field and said, "I think it's time to be in between these lines."
Utley has been sidelined since February with chronic right knee pain. Tonight makrs his first big league game since October.
Here is the entire Q & A of Utley and the media:Q: What was hardest part about being away?Utley:
Obviously you guys know that I enjoy playing, so it's a little disappointing and frustrating to be on the sidelines, not being able to help. But I think we put a pretty good progression together, in the last 3 weeks I've been feeling real good so I think it's time to be in between these lines.Q: How much playing time do you anticipate?Utley:
Those are things we're going to monitor at the beginning for sure. Charlie and I will talk on a daily basis and see where we're at every single day. But I definitely want to be out there.Q: You've always wanted to play no matter what. Is it different now with this injury?Utley:
I think I know my body better than anyone else. I know what I can deal with and I know what I can't deal with. This has been a learning experience for me. I've had to show a little patience throughout the process which I think has been beneficial. So, we'll see how it goes.Q: Think there will be a point where playing time won't have to be monitored and they can turn you loose at some point, and how long do you think it'll take? Utley:
I hope so. Again, I don't have all the answers, we're going to continue to monitor it daily and there will be constant communication with me and Charlie on how it's going to go. If I feel good, I'm going to be in there. If I'm feeling a little discomfort, maybe I'll take a day off. But we'll have to wait and see how that goes.Q: You played 4 straight days in Clearwater recently, how did knee feel, how did it respond, any soreness afterward?Utley:
Like I said, the last three weeks have been pretty good. The whole thing is to try to figure out how it's going to feel the next day. And in Florida it responded great. I was obviously able to play a lot, and play without thinking about it, which was most important.Q: If someone ever told you you could lengthen your career by not playing quite as hard as you do, what would you do?Utley:
I don't know. We'll have to see. Like I said I enjoy playing and I think I play the right way, and I don't see that changing a whole lot. But as far as preparation prior to the game and during the game, that might change a little bit.Q: When you get hurt, you always seem to come back early. What was your time table on this? Did you think it could take a while? Are you pleased with being back now?Utley:
I think you all know there was no timetable set because it was uncertain how it was going to progress. I don't necessarily think I came back early or that I'm coming back too late, I feel like I'm coming back when I feel the best and that's how I feel right now.Q: What's the biggest question for young going forward, to see how it holds up?Utley:
To see how it holds up is nice, but I think the time down in Florida gave me a pretty good indication on how it's going to be. And I was able to take a few days off in between some games, let it rest and let it respond, and it did.Q: How much different is the intensity of the games in Florida to this, physically? Utley:
There's a big difference in the games. First I'm just trying to get my feet wet again, just trying to get comfortable in the batter's box and in the field, while also testing how my knee responds. And all of that was positive down there. But I think the brighter lights, the fans, that will bring more intensity. Q: What's been most challenging part of this process?Utley:
Probably just staying patient. Like I said it's a little frustrating not to be able to go out and help your team win. But I'm proud of my teammates, they've done an outstanding job, for the first two months I think we have one of the better records in the National League, our pitching staff has been outstanding and I know there's been a lot of negative talk recently about how our offense has been struggling, but this is why we play for six months, it's an up and down game and as long as you stay positive we have the guys to get through that.Q: Think getting you back, getting Shane, getting the whole lineup can get the offense turned around?Utley:
I think getting everybody back healthy will definitely help. But it's not all about me, it's not all about Ryan (Howard), it's about all of us together collectively going out there every day and trying to win.Q: Is it possible for you to take a day off, in terms of doing nothing, no BP, no fielding practice?Utley:
Yeah, I think at this point I realize what I need to do to stay on top of it. Some days that might be cutting stuff short, some days I'll be able to go full-out. It's still a learning process, but I think we have a good idea of how to handle it.Q
: Is surgery a possibility in offseason?Utley:
No, I hope not.Q: Do you think this will bother you for rest of career?Utley
: Well I think we've made some strides over the past 3-4 weeks, so hopefully not. As long as I stay on top of the program we have now, the whole goal is to stay pain-free.Q: What did you learn about yourself through all of this?Utley:
Probably like I said before, patience is a virtue.