If the Phillies hope to extend their run in the National League East to six consecutive seasons atop the pack, they undoubtedly will need contributions from their two biggest, middle-of-the-order bats.
And if there’s a chance Ryan Howard and Chase Utley could be out at the same time and miss significant time together, the results could be disastrous.
“I haven’t even thought about that,” manager Charlie Manuel said of playing without Howard and Utley. “I’m not ready to think about that yet.”
As the midway point in spring training came and went, neither Howard nor Utley had appeared in a Grapefruit League game, and neither appeared to be close to ending their respective games-missed streaks.
Howard returned to camp and began light rehab activities on March 14. But Howard, who underwent left Achilles surgery in October and had a setback earlier this spring when he had to have an infection removed from the surgery site, is expected to miss the first two months of the regular season.
Howard’s left foot has been in a walking boot since the Feb. 27 procedure.
“When (the wound) gets healed over and we feel comfortable he can take the boot off, that’s what we’ll do,” general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “But he’s doing some more activities now, he’s doing some cardio stuff, he’s taking ground balls on the bucket.
“I think he’s going to take throws … he’s doing stuff he can do when he’s in the boot that aren’t ridiculous, but things that will help him so he’s not too far removed from doing baseball stuff.”
Utley, meanwhile, is still battling the chronic knee tendonitis that made him miss the first seven weeks of the 2011 season. After taking part in most activities early in camp, Utley has hit with the rest of his teammates in batting practice, but his work in the field has been limited.
Although Manuel said on March 14 that he believed Utley would get into his first game “pretty soon,” Amaro cautioned it could be a bit longer.