NEW YORK — The Phillies after Tuesday night's win placed Chase Utley on the 15-day disabled list with right ankle inflammation. The 36-year-old second baseman will get a cortisone shot Wednesday in Philadelphia. No timetable has been set for his return to the field.
Utley, hitting a major-league worst .179 through the season's first 73 games, sprained his ankle in January while fielding groundballs in an offseason workout. He eased himself into spring training as the swelling dwindled. In early May, according to Phillies head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan, Utley's ankle began to show symptoms. A mid-May MRI showed inflammation still in Utley's ankle, Sheridan said.
Utley said "it's hard to tell" how much the injury has affected his play.
"Obviously, its been bothering me for a little while," he said. "I think most players have aches and pains throughout the course of the year, so I chalked it up to that. Like Scott said, it really showing no improvement. So I think it's a good time to get it right. We're having a cortisone shot (Wednesday). We'll take a little time off. Hopefully that gets it all squared away."
Utley was asked if he had any idea how long it might take for his ankle to return to full health.
"Talking to the doctor (Tuesday), he made it sound like the more time I lay off it, the better chance it has to heal properly," he said. "So I don't have an exact timetable. It will be at least 15 days."
"For the most part the ligaments on the outside of the ankle are healing pretty well," Sheridan said. "Still the one ligament on the inside has some healing to still go. He's having some symptoms that we want to take care of. So we place him on the DL right now and try to get him healthy."
Utley's injury could very well have implications on the future of his decorated career. The franchise icon's contract for next year vests only with 500 plate appearances during this one. He went on the disabled list with 249 plate appearances. The Phillies are 73 games through their 162-game season.
Much will obviously hinge on how long it takes Utley to return to full health. After the initial sprain, there was not a point, he said, when his ankle completely stopped bothering him.
Utley said his knees, which troubled him in the past, feel good. "That's a good sign," he said.
The move to the DL was retroactive to Monday. The six-time All-Star did not appear in Tuesday's 11-6 win over the New York Yankees, a game delayed 81 minutes by rain. Left fielder/first baseman Darin Ruf was recalled from triple-A Lehigh Valley to take Utley's spot on the active roster. He is expected to join the team for Wednesday's series finale at Yankee Stadium.
Utley's injury opens the door for everyday starts for the hot-hitting Cesar Hernandez. The 25-year-old Venezuelan had already been garnering more playing time recently. He recorded his first three-hit game of the season Tuesday and drove in a run on a third-inning double.
"He will get significant playing time," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "The way he's going good right now, it's an opportunity for him."
Sandberg said he was "a little bit surprised by" Utley's injury. He said Utley had not offered any reports to him suggesting he needed to be held back. The manager said he didn't know if the ankle had affected the struggling veteran at the plate.