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Is Chase Utley’s knee worse than the Phillies are letting on?

Mar 7, 2011, 9:35 AM EDT

Philadelphia Phillies  v Los Angeles Dodgers Getty Images

The Phillies have officially refused to press the panic button with respect to Chase Utley‘s wonky knee.  The official word: there may be something more going on than mere soreness and tendinitis, but they are hoping for some improvement soon. Today, however, Paul Hagen says that “the fret level around Bright House Field is a lot higher than the public What-Us-Worry? posture suggests.”  He goes on to outline the Phillies potential moves to deal with a longer-than-expected Utley absence.

The “fret level” thing is impossible for any of us to verify, of course. I think the larger discussion of injuries and alternatives — for Utley and anyone else —  is more interesting, though, because it could tell us more about the Phillies chances this year than anything else. It’s easy to look at the Phillies’ roster and write them down as the NL East champs in ink, but it’s also the case that this team is older than most contenders. Any team is sunk if it suffers injuries, but older teams are more likely to have injuries.

Last year there was a serious case for Charlie Manuel to win Manager of the Year because he held the team together despite a bunch of injuries during the pre-Oswalt months of the season.  If Utley is hurt worse than we think and if other veteran Phillies hands suffer maladies, Cholly may have to reach into his bag of tricks again.

  1. davebrownspiral - Mar 7, 2011 at 10:17 AM

    Wouldn’t be too surprised that if the next week or so the Phillies announce that Utley is undergoing arthroscopic surgery to “clean out” some cartiledge/meniscus and be out 4-6 weeks. Better off getting it done sooner rather than later.

  2. cur68 - Mar 7, 2011 at 10:20 AM

    They are saying it’s patellar tendonitis (jumper’s knee). A far more common injury for volleyball and basketball players. If there’s an associated bone spur, then there’s a bigger problem, but no one’s mentioned that. This is not a typical career threatening injury; it needs rest, ice and it responds well to NSAIDs. They’ve gone ahead and given him a cortisone shot, but I think this is just to speed up recovery. The trouble is that this isn’t a mid or late season injury. Its spring training. The nature of this beast is that of Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI). So, unless he’s spent his off season jumping for hair tonic off the highest shelf in the supermarket (not unlikely given the greasy state of his coiffure), that knee is going to be an ongoing, increasingly worse problem as real ball games will be much more demanding of the joint. Utley fans beware; in all likelihood the Slick One is going to have a long and difficult season.

    • Utley's Hair - Mar 7, 2011 at 11:08 AM

      Hey, hey, hey, hey…HEY!!! It’s not greasy—it’s slicked.

      • cur68 - Mar 7, 2011 at 11:16 AM

        Slicked with grease, Ut, slicked with grease. Remember how Alfalfa used to do his hair on the Little Rascals? With lard, and lots of it. When I say ‘hair tonic’ I mean “Crisco”. That man has the better part of a pie crust on his head at any one time. He, heh, heh; he’s practically a pie! I sure hope El Brave reads this, heh, heh, heh.

      • cur68 - Mar 7, 2011 at 11:18 AM

        Slicked with grease, Ut, slicked with grease. Remember how Alfalfa used to do his hair on the Little Rascals? With lard, and lots of it. When I say ‘hair tonic’ I mean “Crisco”. That man has the better part of a pie crust on his head at any one time. (Heh, heh, heh; he’s practically a pie! I sure hope “El Bravo” reads this, heh, heh, heh …)

      • cur68 - Mar 7, 2011 at 11:19 AM

        sorry about the double post. the second one is more urbane and without typo. why can we not edit this crap?

      • Utley's Hair - Mar 7, 2011 at 11:28 AM

        Never, ever, EVER compare Chase to PIE!!!!! Lard is in buttercream icing—at least some recipes—so we’ll go with that.

        Mmmm…caaaaaaake…D’OH!!!!

      • cur68 - Mar 7, 2011 at 12:19 PM

        Like hell we’ll go with that. It’s Crisco. Which is shortening. Which is in pie crust. PIE! BWAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA…..what?

      • Utley's Hair - Mar 7, 2011 at 12:26 PM

        Okay…I didn’t want to have to do this, but here goes.

        You said greasy, which brings to mind oil. And as a researcher, you of all people—save for Big Joe Blanton, CC Sabathia and Fernando Valenzuela, perhaps—know that oil is closer in consistency to butter than lard. And butter is more prevalent in cake than pie. So there.

        And, to paraphrase Craig a while back: F$%k pie.

      • Jonny 5 - Mar 7, 2011 at 12:27 PM

        It’s common knowledge that Utley uses straight mojo in his hair, to keep it in place. It comes from all his extra mojo, plus the mojo of others that he has stolen from them while they weren’t paying attention. Perez lost his Mojo, because Utley took it. Santana? He’s still looking for his Mojo, check utley’s Hair. If he regains some of it from the Hair, he may have a shot at a decent comeback.

      • cur68 - Mar 7, 2011 at 12:43 PM

        Shortening is a hydrogenated fatty acid. Its basic ingredients are from plants (corn oil). Lard is an animal fat produced from the fatty or otherwise unusable parts of pig carcasses. So, all questions of Mojo aside (seriously Jonny5, its a bit early for purple urkle, innit?) you’d rather pig than plant? I think he’s better off as pie than pig and, since I like the guy, I’m voting the straight Crisco ticket on what the HELL is in his hair.

      • Jonny 5 - Mar 7, 2011 at 12:57 PM

        NO, no “aside” it’s straight up Mojo. End of discussion. Hair, tell him how it is. We don’t want to have him come and take YOUR mojo now do we??? It could be arranged….

      • Utley's Hair - Mar 7, 2011 at 12:57 PM

        Read any of my comments—and if you ever saw me—you’d know full well I’m a carnivore. Besides, I’ve only ever heard him referred to as beefcake, not any weird pie-type monniker.

      • cur68 - Mar 7, 2011 at 1:10 PM

        Ah hell, I aint got no mojo. Never did, never will. I’m lucky if chewing gum while walking along doesn’t jam up my higher functions. But I do know I’d rather that was shortening and not lard. If it was lard he’d attract flies…waitaminnit, he is a pretty good (actually a damn good, (damn his, oily hide!) infielder) and I’ve never seen him drop a fly…hmmm…maybe that’s his secret? Lard on his head? Don’t matter none. U can make pie with lard easy.

    • seeingwhatsticks - Mar 7, 2011 at 12:28 PM

      I would say that you’re right about the treatment options but wouldn’t Utley have been doing that all during the offseason? It’s not like he’s played 35 games in a row and just can’t find a break right now because the team is locked in a playoff race. This is the time of year when a knee that needs rest should be healthiest and he’s clearly not healthy. That’s the reason the team is fretting, and rightfully so.

      Regardless of how this plays out in the immediate future it’s starting to become clear that even under a best case scenario Utley’s time as an every day 2B are quickly coming to an end. He’s going to have to be moved to another position, likely either 1B or DH, which means that either Utley or Howard won’t be in Philly much longer. Given Howard’s contract it seems unlikely Utley is re-signed after his current deal expires, if he’s not traded before then. It’s always sad to see great players start breaking down before their time, even if I’m no fan of the Phillies.

      • cur68 - Mar 7, 2011 at 12:35 PM

        That’s what I mean; his knee is a bother NOW, when it should be at its healthiest. More trouble coming for Chase “Crisco” Utley, the human pie factory.

    • monsieurbear - Mar 7, 2011 at 5:32 PM

      If Utley’s injury is truly a tendonopathy, corticosteroids would likely provide only short-term pain relief and would be ineffective in any long-term recovery. Physical therapy would be a better bet. See, for example, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/01/health/01brody.html?scp=1&sq=corticosteroid%20tendinopathy&st=cse

      If past is prologue, Utley’s admission of pain sufficient to prevent him from playing bodes ill.

  3. Jonny 5 - Mar 7, 2011 at 10:32 AM

    If he isn’t playing in a week, I’m going to hit the panic button myself.

    • heyblueyoustink - Mar 7, 2011 at 10:45 AM

      Oh…c’mon man, behold the power of positivity…..rather than the hip in the middle of the season, it’s a good thing this is happening now.

      • Utley's Hair - Mar 7, 2011 at 11:12 AM

        Right on, stink(?). Better to get this taken care of now, rather than closer to the trade deadline or after, when they also have a 2 or 3 guy in their No. 5 slot, and a single A guy in their first alternate slot. (Hey, Eddie, come on…you know you want KK instead of Happ…it’ll make ya FEEEEELLLLL good!!!!!!)

  4. JBerardi - Mar 7, 2011 at 10:46 AM

    If Utley is hurt worse than we think and if other veteran Phillies hands suffer maladies, Cholly may have to reach into his bag of tricks again.

    I’ll be real impressed if he’s got a “somehow replace the best middle infielder in the game” trick in that bag.

  5. mercyflush - Mar 7, 2011 at 11:08 AM

    like someone said, better it happen now than later.

    The Phillies should be good enough without him for the first third of the season to hover around 1st place, or at least within striking distance (assuming no other major injuries for now). Let him get the (hopefully) minor surgery if that’s what’s needed. Let him get rest until the end of May. put him in a freaking hyperbaric chamber.

    They wont make a long playoff run without a healthy and productive chase utley, so better to bite that bullet now.

  6. heyblueyoustink - Mar 7, 2011 at 11:26 AM

    Lol….you know Hair, I think i’d prefer “blue” over “stink” if I have any say in this…..or is this one of those NBA things where you don’t get to make up your own nickname

    • Utley's Hair - Mar 7, 2011 at 11:30 AM

      That may vary with whether I agree with your comment. From now on, I will defer to your wishes—provided I agree with you…or remember, even then. How ’bout that?

  7. macjacmccoy - Mar 7, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    IF all the Phillies have to deal with this year is a sore knee for Utley and a broken hand for a unproven talent its gonna bea great year.

    • tomemos - Mar 7, 2011 at 2:15 PM

      Sure. But it’s March 7. How many teams face all of their season’s problems by March 7?

  8. skerney - Mar 7, 2011 at 4:39 PM

    Rollins said they could win 116 games.
    They would be lucky if Utley plays 116 games.

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