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Phillies Notebook: Matt Harrison settling in with Phillies, bad back and all

The veteran lefthander acquired in the Cole Hamels trade likely won’t be counted on to pitch again until next season.

Texas Rangers starting pitcher Matt Harrison (54) delivers pitch in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. (Ron Chenoy/USA Today)
Texas Rangers starting pitcher Matt Harrison (54) delivers pitch in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. (Ron Chenoy/USA Today)Read more

JUST DAYS after being dealt to the Phillies from the Rangers in the Cole Hamels trade, Matt Harrison seems to be settling in with his new ballclub.

The 29-year-old veteran lefthander could be seen chatting intently in the clubhouse yesterday with outfielder Jeff Francoeur, catcher Cameron Rupp, starting pitcher Aaron Harang, and even former slugger Pat Burrell, who was in town for Phillies Alumni Weekend.

However, Harrison's relationships with his new teammates will be strictly off the field for the foreseeable future, as he has been placed on the disabled list due to lower-back inflammation.

Interim manager Pete Mackanin spoke with Harrison on Friday, telling the lefty to focus on returning at full strength next season.

"He knows what's going on and just said be smart with it, and [he also said], 'We're looking for you to be on the staff next year and the next year after that,' so he said just get healthy right now and see where it goes," Harrison said.

Harrison underwent spinal fusion surgery in June 2014 and returned to action in July for Texas, going 1-2 in three starts while allowing a total of 19 hits and 12 runs in 16 innings.

He began to feel stiffness in his back before his third start, and knew something wasn't right.

Harrison, the first pitcher known to return to the majors after undergoing spinal fusion, will spend the rest of 2015 working to get stronger for next season.

"I'm just kind of seeing where it goes, doing some back stuff right now, kind of easy stuff, and I'll kind of ramp it up once it feels all right," Harrison said. "And at that point, I don't really know where I'm going to go, stay here or go to Clearwater.

"But I'll hopefully get healthy soon and get back out there."

Utley at Lehigh

Chase Utley went 2-for-3 with a walk as a designated hitter in a rehab assignment with Triple A Lehigh Valley yesterday, his first minor league stint since being placed on the disabled list with inflammation in his right ankle on June 23.

The 36-year-old second baseman has been slowly increasing his baseball activity since the All-Star break, taking batting practice and fielding ground balls before games for the past few weeks.

Utley will resume his rehab assignment tomorrow and Wednesday with Double A Reading in Trenton, N.J., and will be re-evaluated thereafter.

Pete Mackanin was pleased to hear that Utley got a few hits in his first rehab start, but he still wants to see firsthand how Utley's ankle handles game action in the field.

"I would like to see him [in the field]," Mackanin said. "He's taking ground balls and we've seen a little bit of him, but it's important to get in game situations, so I'd like to see him play some games to get into those situations."

Mackanin made it abundantly clear that if Utley is healthy, he's going to get playing time.

"I'm not just going to dump Chase Utley on the bench," Mackanin said. "He's going to get playing time somewhere, and I'm going to find him playing time; he might play first base a day, but I'm going to try to get him as many at-bats as I can.

"I'll move him around, I can give Cesar [Hernandez] a day off [or] play Cesar at shortstop, for example, to allow Utley to get some at-bats. There's no way I'm just going to let him sit on the bench.''