NEW YORK - The most jarring thing about the Phillies' after-midnight news Tuesday night that saw Chase Utley in the manager's office, standing alongside the assistant general manager and head team athletic trainer, wasn't that the oft-injured, 36-year-old second baseman was being placed on the disabled list with a right-ankle injury.
It was that the news appeared to completely blindside manager Ryne Sandberg. About 8 hours earlier, before the game, the manager was asked if he had to have a difficult conversation with Utley, who was hitting under .180 and was out of the lineup for the third time in the last five games.
"I talk to Chase all the time," Sandberg said. "We talk on the field, we talk in the outfield, in the locker room. I'm around him a lot."
And then, after the game, minutes after Scott Proefrock announced the roster move and Scott Sheridan explained why, including that Utley had an MRI way back on May 16, Sandberg was borderline blindsided.
"In my communication with Chase throughout the season about playing he's always been up and willing to go and no real reports of anything holding him back, so I was a little bit surprised by it in some regards," Sandberg said.
Has it led to his offensive struggles? "Knowing what I know now, I don't know if it has affected him," Sandberg said. "But to get it taken care of with a stint on the DL is the next step and we'll see if that helps him get it behind him. But, you know, the way that he's moved around and run the bases and run hard and played defense, I don't think it was holding him back all that much, in my opinion.
"You know to have it bothering him now, and as he said, it's kind of crept up to the point where [he is] getting it rechecked and reevaluated, so that's what he feels."
Then again, perhaps the lack of communication isn't surprising since it has almost defined the Sandberg era. At least his daily dilemma of deciding whether to bench a franchise icon in favor of a younger, more athletic option (Cesar Hernandez) is over for the foreseeable future.
Utley was placed on the 15-day DL with right-ankle inflammation and there is no timetable for his return. Darin Ruf was recalled from Triple A Lehigh Valley to fill the roster spot.
It's the same ankle Utley sprained in January. He was scheduled to receive a cortisone shot yesterday.
"Talking to the doctor today, the more time I can lay off it, the better chance it has to heal properly," Utley said after Tuesday's game. "I don't have an exact time frame. It will be at least 15 days."
Utley arrived to spring training behind schedule after spraining the ankle in workouts in January. He stepped on a ball during fielding drills.
But he was on the field and producing in the final week of spring training. The pain resurfaced in the beginning of May. He had an MRI over a month ago, but tried to continue to play through it.
It wasn't working. Utley is hitting .179 with a .532 OPS - both rank 165th out of 165 qualifying major league players this season.
"It's hard to tell," Utley said of whether the injury had an effect on his play. "Obviously, it's been bothering me for a little while. Most players have aches and pains throughout the course of the year, so I chalked it up to that . . . It's really showing no improvement. So I think it's a good time to get it right."
According to Sheridan, last month's MRI showed Utley still had inflammation in the ankle.
"The ligaments were healing well," Sheridan said. "Still, one ligament on the side has healing still to go."
The injury will be treated with a cortisone shot, and then a still-undetermined amount of rest.
In the last week, Utley has seen his playing time cut with the 25-year-old Hernandez emerging as a viable option. Hernandez is 10-for-31 (.323) in his last nine games (seven starts).
Righthander Phillippe Aumont elected to become a free agent rather than accept an assignment to Lehigh Valley yesterday, 4 days after he was designated for assignment. The 26-year-old Aumont, the last of the prospects that remained from the ill-fated 2009 Cliff Lee trade to Seattle, had a 6.80 ERA in 46 career games with the Phillies . . . Ben Revere (1-for-4) has hit safely in 17 of his last 20 games. Revere is hitting .367 in June, fourth in the NL behind Bryce Harper, Troy Tulowitzki and Maikel Franco. Franco (.395) has the highest average in the NL this month . . . With Cole Hamels' five-inning outing, Phillies starting pitchers have thrown fewer than six innings 35 times in 74 games, most in the NL. Only Tampa (37 times) has had starters pitch fewer than six innings more often. Phillies starters have a combined 6.22 ERA in the last month (since May 24), highest in baseball.