Asked why the details of his rehabilitation program were being treated like a state secret, Chase Utley cracked a slight smile.
"I think you guys know me by now," the Phillies second baseman said.
Utley is so private he probably would rather not even have a social security number. But he did offer a better idea of his prognosis than he has in past briefings with reporters.
First, some key points.
1) He says he believes setting a timetable would be counterproductive. I assume that means setting a public timetable. Because you know darn well the first thing he has asked every doctor he has spoken with is, "When can I get back?"
2) There are indications that both Utley and the Phillies are targeting a May return. Neither side will say anything approaching specific with regards to the plan. But Ruben Amaro Jr. said yesterday that Utley is not a candidate for the 60-day disabled list because there is a realistic chance that Utley returns in less than 60 days. Amaro also said he has not been preparing for the possibility of Utley missing the whole season.
"I don't think we've thought that far ahead," he said.
3) Utley has began to take groundballs. He still isn't running, which is the primary activity that aggravates his right knee, which has been diagnosed as being afflicted with bone bruising, chondromalacia and patellar tendinitis. But he is making progress, moreso than he was at the beginning of camp.
4) All in all, if you are a Phillies fan, there is more reason to be encouraged now about Utley's situation than there was a month or so ago. But it still sounds like he has a long way to go. Best case scenario sounds like an early-May return. And again, that's just me reading between the lines. But as long as surgery remains a possibility -- which Utley says he is determined to avoid -- it's tough to tell exactly when to expect a return.
Here is the complete transcript:
Q: Have you made progress?
A: Yeah. Over the past few weeks I think we have made some progress for obviously the good and we're going to stay on top of what we've been doing so I'm optimistic at this point and we'll continue to do what we're doing and go from there.
Q: Are you close to running or taking grounders?
A: I've started to take some light ground balls the past few days and that's definitely a positive. We haven't started running yet. I'm just going to let my body dictate how it's going and we'll make progressions from there. At this point we want to take steps forward and not backwards and so far were doing that.
Q: Why are you going to Philly with the team instead of staying in Clearwater to rehab?
A: I want to be around our trainers and be there for my teammates, So I am going to Philly
Q: Are you Optimistic about getting on field or avoiding surgery?
A: I think both. Absoutely. The whole goal is to get back on the field and in my mind we're taking the right steps needed to do that.
Q: What is your timetable for return?
A: Right now there is no timetable. I think we've been pretty patient with it. And were going to be continue to be patrient. I think that's the smart thing to dio and were going to stay on that treack.
Q: Is taking groundballs an example of progress?
A: Being able to take groundballs, they were fairly light, not a whole of intensity, but to be able to do that pain free was important.
Q: Who was the rehab specialist that you saw?
A: If told you I'd have to kill you..
Q: In your mind will you be on the field this year?
A: Absolutely. That's my goal. I think it can happen. As long as we continue to take steps forward I think that's definitely a possibility.
Q: What types of surgeries are options? Is microfracture?
A: You can talk to 10 different doctors and they might give you 10 different answers. . .There's a few types of surgeries that guys would recommend. None of them I feel that comfortable with at this point. I think we can alleviate this without the surgery. But time will tell.
Q: Is there a risk that surgery could make the condition worse?
A: That's what a few different doctors have said. Hey listen if surgery was the answer and I couild be back on the field in six weeks guanrateed, it would be a no-brainer. But I don't think that's the case. It's a little unpredictable at this point, so I want to take as many steps as I can to avoid that surgery.
Q: Are you treating the knee with anything out of the ordinary? Have you taken any injections?
A: We've come up with a good stretching program. I guess you could say a massage-type program, a little bit more intense than just a standard massage, and I think it is loosening everything up, which is allowing my knee to work a little bit more efficiently.
Q: Are you concerned that even if you get back on the field, the condition could flare up again with repeated pounding?
A: That crossed my mind. That's why we're trying to take this process slowly and read how I'm responding. You might try something one day and see how you respond the next day and if it's OK and everything feels OK you can make progressions off of that. As long as we are moving in the right direction, I think we'll be OK.
Q: How difficult is it not to be playing?
A: Obviously it's been a little bit frustrating. I enjoy playing, I enjoy being on the field with my teammates. But I do also understand that I need to be patient with this. It's not something that's going to change overnight. It's going to take a lot of work on my end, a lot of work on the trainer's end to make this go away. So it definitely is frustrating but I'm trying to stay positive about it.
Q: Is this something that can go away or have you been led to believe you will have to deal with it throughout your career?
A: I believe that it is something that can go away.
Q: How many doctors have you seen?
A: More than a few.
Q: Seen more than a few or talked to more than a few?
A: I'm trying to pick as many brains as possible and trying to put a good game plan together on how to alleviate this. I think we are doing the right things.
Q: Can you be back by the All Star Break?
A: That would be a goal, yes.
Q: I want answers.
A: You want answers?
Q: I want the Truth.
A: You can't handle the Truth. Son, we live in a world that has knee injuries. And those knee injuries have to be treated by men with medical degrees. Who's gonna do it? You? You David Murphy? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for my DL stint and you curse the Phillies. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that my DL stint, while tragic, probably wins games. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, wins games. You don't want the Truth. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on the DL. You need me on the DL. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone to a life spent winning something. You use 'em as a punchline. I have neither the time, nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very entertainment that I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way. otherwise, I suggest you pick up a medicine ball and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to.
Wait, I think those last two questions came from another interview.