CINCINNATI - Charlie Manuel strolled through the visitors' dugout at Great American Ball Park three hours before Tuesday's game and let out a sigh as he sat down on the wooden bench to speak with a group of reporters.

One tried to break the ice. "Keeping up?" he asked.

"I don't know if I'm keeping up or not," Manuel said. "I'm getting ready to throw up."

The Phillies' manager cracked a smile. Still, it was hard to tell if he was joking.

Half of Manuel's infield was placed on the disabled list Tuesday, and his team faces a crucial turning point in this 2010 season.

Chase Utley (sprained right thumb) and Placido Polanco (left elbow inflammation) will each be out for at least two weeks.

Beyond that, the Phillies are unsure how long they could be without their starting second and third basemen.

"I don't have a lot of answers right now," the club's head athletic trainer, Scott Sheridan, said Tuesday.

One thing is certain: The Phillies, now with seven players on the disabled list, are in an unenviable position without Utley and Polanco, both of whom are the leading vote-getters at their positions in National League all-star balloting.

"That's a big part of our lineup," Manuel said.

Infielders Greg Dobbs and Brian Bocock were recalled from triple-A Lehigh Valley. Dobbs started at third base, and Wilson Valdez played second Tuesday against the Cincinnati Reds.

Scott Proefrock, the Phillies' assistant general manager, would not commit to making a move to acquire help from outside the organization until the Phils have a better idea of how long Utley and Polanco may be out.

"We're always looking to get better," Proefrock said. "Now our focus may be a little different than it was. But we'll explore whatever options are available."

Manuel was confident such a move could be made.

"I think in any way we can make our team stronger, or if there are things we need to get, I think we'll get them," Manuel said.

This is only the second time in Utley's career that he has been put on the disabled list. He left the ballpark hours before Tuesday's game and was not available for comment.

Utley will see hand specialist Randall Culp in Philadelphia on Wednesday. Sheridan said he and his staff had differing opinions on the severity of the sprain when they looked the results of Utley's MRI. A second opinion, they hope, will help decide what grade the sprain is.

The grade determines the amount of tearing in the ligament. Grade 3 is the worst and Grade 1 is less severe.

Surgery would not necessarily mean that Utley would be out for a longer period, Sheridan said. Surgeries done on players in the past have taken from six to 12 weeks to heal, depending on the severity of the injury.

"There are going to be different opinions," Sheridan said. "Some people will look at it and say, 'It's not to the extent to where I'd repair it.' Others would say, 'I'd definitely repair that and go forward with it.' I think if you look long-term, I don't think that's going to change the time frame a whole lot."

The Phillies are just as unsure about Polanco's injury. The third baseman has taken anti-inflammatory medication and received two cortisone shots for his elbow since being hit by a pitch April 21 in Atlanta.

Polanco has played through the injury, but the elbow did not respond to the most recent cortisone shot (on Sunday) the way the Phillies hoped.

"It was concerning enough where we put him on the DL, try to get him some rest, and see where he's at," Sheridan said.

Polanco had an MRI exam on his elbow Tuesday in Philadelphia. At the end of May, an MRI revealed a chronic bone spur in the elbow. There is no structural damage, the Phillies said.

Sheridan said he was not sure if there was a surgical option for Polanco, but the third baseman said Monday that he might need off-season surgery to clean out the area.

"The question is why is it so persistent?" Sheridan said. "You'd expect it to be treated with anti-inflammatories, and you'd expect it to respond, and it's not, so we're going to put him on the DL, rest him, and try to get some better answers."

Until the Phillies have those answers on Utley and Polanco, they remain in a holding pattern.

As rightfielder Jayson Werth said, other players will need to step up. But the Phillies take comfort in knowing they have weathered injury problems in the past.

"We have faith in each other," Werth said. "We've been here before. We're resilient."

Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at 215-854-2928 or mgelb@phillynews.com.
Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/magelb.