Utley eyes return, optimistic on Phils season

June 25, 2012 7:23:48 PM PDT
"There's no doubt in my mind ? there's plenty of time."

Phillies second baseman Chase Utley let the world know Monday that he is closer than ever to returning to a team he feels is not out of the running.

"I know there's some people that have given up on me and there's some people that have given up on this team, but I'll be the first one to tell you that I definitely haven't given up on myself and I know our guys haven't given up on this year," Utley said in the dugout at Citizens Bank Park.

The five-time All-Star is scheduled to play for Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Tuesday and he could make his season debut this week, possibly Wednesday.

"I'm definitely getting closer," Utley told Action News sports reporter Jeff Skversky.

"Tomorrow night, I'm going to be playing in Lehigh. I plan on playing a majority of the game and go from there, but I'm optimistic, I'm encouraged by the way things went down in Clearwater and I'm excited to get back here."

Utley has been on the DL all season due to chronic knee problems.

He says as long as everything stays on course down in Triple-A, he should be back in the big leagues in no time.

"As long as it continues to respond well like it has been; every day, it seemed like it improved, every single day. Playing defense it got a little bit better, running bases daily it got better. So I'm encouraged with that and we'll see how it goes tomorrow," Utley said.

Utley told reporters he is in a better place than he was a month ago.

"I'm just trying to get some more rhythm, get the flow of the game back," Utley said.

With his team back nine games out of first place, Utley said it was extremely tough to not rush back to want to help.

"I realize the more I rush [things], the worst it can get, but right now, I think we've been smart about it, done everything the right way...and I like that it's gone well," Utley said.

Utley says he will sit down with Phillies manager Charlie Manuel to discuss how he will be used upon his return.

As for Charlie, he just wants to make sure his All-Star is completely healthy when he does return to the field.

"He just has to prove that he's healthy and he's ready to go and I think that we got to make sure when we put him on the field that he's ready and that he won't have a setback," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

Whether he makes his long awaited return on Wednesday or another day, Utley is eager to get back with his teammates.

"I understand I've been around here for a long time. We've had some pretty successful years here and I'm just as excited as the fans are to get back out there on the field," Utley said.

Though for Utley, he's not returning to the once National League East powerhouse team he left behind. The Phillies have lost 40 games this season. They did not lose 40 games last year until August.

"One good bounce our way and things can change so I'm excited to move forward in this rehab process and try to get back here as soon as possible," Utley said.

So as fans continue to ponder if there really is enough time for the Phillies to bounce back to the top, for the returning Utley, he's positive they can.

There's no doubt.