Chase Utley hits homer in first at bat

Philadelphia Phillies Chase Utley swings a bat with a weight on during batting practice prior the Phillies spring training baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Brighthouse Field in Clearwater, Fla., Saturday, March 17, 2012. Utley has not taken to the field during spring training due to a lingering knee injury. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

June 27, 2012 4:48:29 PM PDT
In his first at bat since coming off the disabled list, second basemen Chase Utley hit a home run to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead in the first.

Utley hit the solo home run to deep right-center field off the Pittsburgh Pirates' James McDonald.

Catcher Carlos Ruiz followed that with a home run of his own, giving the Phils a 2-0 lead going into the second.

Meanwhile, Ryan Howard passed his medical exam and will begin a rehab stint in Lakewood tomorrow.

Howard, the 2006 NL MVP, hasn't played since tearing his left Achilles' tendon on the final swing of the 2011 season in Game 5 of the NL division series against St. Louis.

Howard will serve as the designated hitter for Class A Lakewood. He could return to the Phillies within three weeks. Utley homered in his first at-bat after missing the first 76 games with a chronic problem in both knees.

As for Utley, the five-time All-Star has missed the first three months of the season because of chronic knee problems.

To make room for Utley on the 25-man roster, infielder Michael Martinez was optioned to triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Utley, 33, began the 2012 season on the disabled list with bilateral chondromalacia. He appeared in nine games with single-A Clearwater as part of a rehabilitation assignment, batting .156 in 32 at-bats with one home run, five RBI, three walks and three runs scored.

He completed his rehab assignment last night with Lehigh Valley where he went 2-for-5 with a home run, RBI and run scored, playing all nine innings at second base.

Last season, Utley hit .259 with 21 doubles, 11 HR, 44 RBI and 54 runs scored in 103 games. With Utley in the lineup last season, the Phillies averaged 4.84 runs per game in which he appeared (499 R/103 G), compared to 3.6 runs a game in which he didn't appear (214 R/59 G).

Martinez, 29, was batting .133 with a home run and four RBI in 16 games for the Phillies this year.