Chase Utley will not be ready on Opening Day.
Chase Utley does not know when he'll be ready.
Chase Utley, however, will not have season-ending surgery, nor will he retire because of the chronic pain in his knees that has sidelined him from playing at all for the second straight spring.
Utley was a bit animated when talking to reporters to, perhaps because he enjoyed dispelling the wild rumors... that have resulted from the mysterious way he and the Phillies have gone about not talking about his knee condition and/or his availability this spring.
Here is everything Utley had to say this afternoon:
"I was in Phoenix meeting with a physical therapist by the name of Brett Fischer for about four or five days, just to get some better ideas on how I can continue to move forward. I have a better idea now on how my body is supposed to move compared to how it’s moving at this time, and I think we have something pretty good for the future."
Q:: Which is?
Utley: Obviously, I’m not going to be ready for opening day. I don’t really have a timeline on when I will be available. I will take this process fairly slow because I think it’s important to get everything around my knees working correctly. And I think it’s going to take a little bit of time. I’m disappointed. I’m upset. I’m not happy that I’m in this situation right now, but I’m not going to let that deter me and get me down. I think that going out to Arizona to talk to Brett, we came up with some better things to do. Some things I’ve already been doing. Some other stretches, some other manual therapy, some other things that I think will definitely help.
Q: Chronic problem you’ll always have to mange?
Utley: I think once we get everything around my knees working correctly, I don’t know if it will be a problem. I’ve already seen benefits over the last four or five days from doing some new exercises. I’m very optimistic this is going to turn out well. But again it’s going to take a little time and I have to do this right. I think it’s important, not only for this year, but for the rest of my career. I’m 33 years old. I know some people think that’s old, but I still feel like I have a lot of baseball left in me.
Q: How is this different and similar to last year?
Utley: It’s fairly similar. My right knee last year was the knee that bothered me. And my left knee felt pretty good. This year it’s the complete opposite. My right knee feels very good, which is in my mind a positive. But now my left knee is a little upset. So we made some changes last year to my right knee. It worked because it feels strong. It feels good. Now I have to make similar changes to my left knee. Again, it’ll take a little time to see how it goes.
Q: Better or worse than last year? If better, back earlier than last year?
Utley: Again, I’m not going to put any type of limit on this. I’m going to kind of go at the pace that my knee tells me. If it feels good I’m going to continue to forward. If it starts to act up I’m going to slow it down a little bit. But as far as pain, last year I was in more pain.
Q: Things break down over time?
Utley: I don’t know if that’s actually the case here. There’s a little wear and tear but I think if I can get things moving correctly around my knees, it’ll (improve).
Q: Replacing anything?
Utley: “I’m not looking at any surgery. I’m not looking at any type of injections. I’m looking at a daily routine that consists of manual therapy, strength training, mobilization of the joints.”
Q: Different guy than last year?
Utley: “Brett came – I heard a lot of good things about Brett and he works with a ton of athletes, especially ones that are coming back from certain issues. I felt it was an opportunity for me to pick his brain and see what he had to say. Some things we talked about I’ve already been doing, but there were some things he added that I think will definitely move me in the right direction.”
Q: When did become issue?
Utley: “This offseason I felt pretty good coming into camp, I felt pretty good but the more I tried to progress, it became just a little bit more uncomfortable. I slowed it down a little bit, tried to ramp it up again, and once I ramped it up again I knew it wasn’t moving that great. So at that point I decided to seek his advice.”
Q: Different offseason?
Utley: I put the baseball cleats on and then it’s a different feel. I thought I had a good program going into this offseason and I’m happy with some things and there are things I’m disappointed with. It’s a work in progress but I think by having some new ideas it’ll be beneficial.”
Utley: “Again, unless someone tells me there’s a surgical option that’s 100 percent, I’m not really interested in that. I think I can make adjustments with my body without surgery.”
Q: Why left knee now?
Utley: Not necessarily but it is what it is. It’s the same similar feeling as last year, not quite as bad as my right one was, but it’s uncomfortable enough to keep me off the field. My right one’s ready to rock. The left one is not right at this point, but I think the game plan that we started, I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
Q: Name for condition?
Utley: “I think there’s some misunderstandings. I don’t have patellar tendinitis. It’s called chondromalacea, which is a roughening of the cartilage underneath the patellar. And it’s not that bad. It’s not bad enough to have microfracture surgery. It’s not bad enough to end my career. It’s an issue I’m going to have to deal with. There’s a lot of wear and tear in this game, and I just have to get things around my knee to move better to take a little pressure off my knee.”
Q: If you manage it properly...
Utley: I think I can actually get it to go away, to be honest. My right knee, like I said, feels great.
Q: You'll be back this year right?
Utley: I'm not going to put any time on it, but I think at the pace we're going and the changes I've made in the past three or four days, it looks positive. I anticipate playing this year, absolutely, and contributing.
Q: How does this change how hard you can play the game?
Utley: I have to prepare differently, that's about it.
Q: Talked to other athletes who have dealt with this?
Utley: There's a few guys, I pick their brains. But everybody is a little different and you have to treat everybody as an individual. But by seeing Brett and doing some of the exercises I've been doing this offseason and continuing with that, it'll take a little bit of time. But I think it'll work.
Utley: Without a doubt. There was a week there were I was frustrated. I'm still a little frustrated, but I think I'm more educated now on how I need my body to move. There are things we're starting to do to allow me to do that.
Utley: Maybe a little worried. Disappointment. Frustration. Those are things I was. But I'm not looking for anybody to feel sorry. If anything, I'm looking for a little support here. I think we're onto something. I'm not happy that I'm not going to be on the field right away with my teammates, but we have a good squad. We have a good pitching staff. We have some veteran leaders who will allow it to not affect us.
Q: What about this wild speculation, like retiring?
Utley: Oh. I didn't hear that one. I'm definitely not retiring. When I went out to Arizona, I asked Ruben not to say where I was going because I didn't think it was necessary for people to know. I appreciate the organization for respecting my wishes in that regard.
Everyone knows the last two or three years we've had to deal with some injuries. We were able to overcome that. I don't think this year is any different.
Q: Will your career be shorter because of this issue?
Utley: Not necessarily. I'm not in the ideal position to make that statement, but I really believe I can get past this and contribute for a while. It's going to take a little time. One thing I cannot do is rush it. The more I do not listen to my knee, the worse it's going to become.
Q: What do you think of Freddy Galvis?
Utley: I've talked to him a little bit. I'll talk to him a little bit more. But Freddy's a good baseball player. He's young but he has a lot of instincts and a lot of ability. Defensively, he's outstanding. And he can swing the bat. He's starting to swing the bat a little better. He's fun to watch. He's a good kid.
Q: Are you hitting right now?
Utley: I’m not hitting right now, I’m doing things in the training room to build strength, to get more flexible in all areas. Once I feel comfortable enough to hit, I’ll hit.
Q: Why did you feel need to be more forthcoming… or didn’t you feel that need?
Utley: I did not feel the need. But there are a lot of rumors out there, which I don’t know how they get started. I understand you guys look for things to right about, but now you have the information so there’s no need to make things up or to speculate.
Q: When did you realize Opening Day wasn’t going to happen. Preferred to see specialist earlier in retrospect?
Utley: I felt like I did what I needed to do. It was a little uncomfortable in the past, I had taken it easy and done some exercises and started to feel a little bit better. This year, it didn’t quite do what I anted it to do. So I took my time… again rushing it isn’t the way to treat my issues. It’s to take time, to be smart about what I’m doing. I’m not only getting ready for this year but hopefully for a lot more years.
Q: How did you approach different this offseason?
Utley: I took it a little easier as far as loading my legs, I thought that would be beneficial. I think it was beneficial with my right one, my left one didn’t respond for some reason. That’s why I’m working right now to change little things up, to make small adjustments and hopefully they pay off.
Q: Last year they said right knee. Did this just pop up. Or always both knees?
Utley: Right knee was the culprit last year, Maybe occasionally there would be an ache or pain in my left one, but not to the point where it would keep me out of the game.
Q: So left knee became a problem...
Utley: This spring
Q: Genetic issue?
Utley: “No, not that I know of. I think being an athlete, there’s some wear and tear but you also have to make sure your joints are moving correctly and everybody’s doing their role in your lower half. Right now, they’re not doing all their roles. But I’m going to figure it out soon enough.”
Q: Knowing body help?
Utley: “I think the things I’m doing in the training room will go onto the field. I think we’ve got to start out slow, slow, small movements and continue to progress and get stronger and build strength in those areas that you’re not used to being in and hopefully that will transition to the field.”