CHICAGO - Ruben Amaro Jr. need not use the phrases "flexor pronator tendon"or "ulnar collateral ligament" when describing pitcher Vance Worley's ailing right elbow. An ultrasound and MRI revealed no structural damage in the righthander's elbow. That allowed the general manager to feel relieved.
"Generally, it's pretty good news," Amaro said.
He had to add that caveat because the Phillies will still be without Worley for at least three starts. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday with inflammation in the posterior joint of his elbow. He is eligible to return no earlier than May 27.
It could be worse.
Amaro said Worley had complained of soreness between starts recently. "But it was nothing really alarming," Amaro said. Not until his last start, Friday against San Diego, did the pain intensify.
"We are better off trying to nip it in the bud," Amaro said. "Obviously, he threw pretty well for us his last time out. We thought it was probably prudent to go ahead and put him on the DL, based on the diagnosis from the doctor."
Elbow injuries, of course, can linger. Worley will be prevented from throwing for a week. By then, the Phillies hope rest is enough to cure the inflammation. If not, it might be a larger problem.
Worley, 24, has a 3.07 ERA in seven starts with 45 strikeouts in 44 innings. He finished third in rookie of the year voting a season ago.
"We think it's milder," Amaro said. "But we won't know until he's throwing again, how he feels, and how long it will take."
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," Amaro 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.
Outfielder Domonic Brown missed his ninth straight game at triple-A Lehigh Valley with injuries to his left knee. Amaro said Brown hyperextended his knee and strained his hamstring. "I don't know how far away he is, but somewhere between a week and 10 days before I think we'll see him back," Amaro said.
Brown is hitting .247 with a .645 OPS for the IronPigs. He has yet to homer.
Amaro said that Ryan Howard continues his work in Florida. "He's basically doing everything," Amaro said. "He's not doing everything full speed yet or 100 percent, but a lot of it right now is about getting his strength back in his calf." . . . Lefthanded reliever Joe Savery was recalled from triple-A Lehigh Valley to take Worley's spot on the roster.