CHICAGO — For the first time since rejoining the team May 5, Chase Utley fielded ground balls during batting practice. He moved side-to-side and at full speed for the duration of practice.

That's a crucial step for the injured second baseman. Utley has been hitting, but he has often said that infield work causes the most pain on his chronically injured knees. He said he would wait until he was fully ready to take grounders. It finally happened Wednesday.

"He's doing better," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "I think he's feeling a little bit better."

Taking grounders on a regular basis is the last benchmark before appearing in minor-league games. Utley said once he leaves the Phillies for Florida, it will be to play in games. He required 11 days in the minors last season before returning May 23.

Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @magelb.