2011 Spring Training

Writers Roundtable: Chase Utley's Knee

(Every so often we’ll throw a question out on the table for all the Phillies Nation contributors to answer. Here is our latest installment of Writer’s Roundtable.)

With all this talk about Chase Utley’s knee, we figured we’d keep it going and find out what our contributors think. The question is simple, but each person has their own line of thinking when it comes to our star second baseman.

If you would like to vote on our old Chase Utley poll, please do so here.

Q: How concerned are you about Chase Utley’s knee?

Paul Boyé: It’s definitely reasonable to be concerned, but I’m not sensing a real emergency here. Sure, this is just the latest ailment to plague the star second baseman, but the Phillies’ medical staff is widely hailed as one of the best in baseball, and I’m sure they’re on top of this. According to the Mayo Clinic, most of the treatments for patellar tendinitis involve no sort of drug or surgery, so with the proper amount of rest and physical therapy, it seems Utley should be ready to go within a couple of weeks. Hopefully – thought it will mean a likely increased reliance on Wilson Valdez or some sort of less-than-all-that-good back-up – Utley will see more rest during the season, in order to combat this issue from flaring up again. He probably needed the extra rest during this season, anyway; this occurrence is just one more incentive to give it to him, fierce competitor or not.

Amanda Orr: Not concerned too much. I mean, it’s Chase Utley. If it was some one else, I’d be concerned, but Utley’s a gamer. He’s been injured throughout his career, but has always returned quicker than expected. Even when he is hurt, he plays through it and still manages to put up decent numbers. I’d feel better if he was 100% healthy, but he still has time to heal before April 1st.

Dash Treyhorn: I’m concerned with Chase Utley’s knee in the same way that I’m concerned about the throwing elbows of the pitching staff: that is to say: very. It’s less because I expect Chase to need surgery or to miss any significant amount of time, and more because my fandom prevents me from getting comfortable – in any capacity – with this team. Call it a side effect of an embarrassment of riches, but the assumptions of dominance that come along when a team sports this kind of roster can lead to fatal amounts of expectations. As such, I’ve never been more nervous for a team that I have little reason to be nervous for. The amount of apprehension I have for this team is inversely proportional to the caliber of team that they are.

As far as his knee goes, I’m more worried about Chase’s overall well being, thanks in part to his reputation of being a “if you can walk, then you can take the field” type of player. Could his knee be a problem? It could, but it may also be a blessing in disguise that forces the second baseman to take it easy over the course of the season. For right now, let’s not lose any sleep over it.

Jeff Nelson: How could anyone not be concerned with the health of Utley’s knee? He isn’t getting any younger and he’s missed chunks of games in two of the the last four seasons due to various injuries. While I do love watching him play as much as possible and Chase’s M.O. is to play through pain, pretty much at all costs, I’d like to see him be smarter this year with regards to his playing time. If I were the manager I’d rest him once a week or maybe even sit him out of day-games following night games. I know this strategy would limit his playing time to around 140 regular season games, give or take, but it’s a safer scenario than risking a major injury to our star second-baseman and possibly forcing another half-season of Wilson Valdez plate appearances.

Corey Seidman: Not to be all panicky, but my concern-o-meter is high. General soreness became multiple missed ST games, which led to the diagnosis of knee tendinitis, which then led to reports that Utley felt the pain all offseason but did not want to speak up. It just feels like the “what’s next” is going to be that he won’t be ready to start the season, followed by lingering pain. Hurt Utley is much different than Healthy Utley, and the absence of the latter would be significant. It’s fine and dandy to hold the opposition to 2-3 runs per game, but you also have to score, something many teams – the Phillies of years past included – struggle to do in the cold of early April.

Kieran Carobine: Whenever a starter suffers an injury there is always reason for concern.  An even greater concern when a guy like Chase Utley is hurt.  Utley has always been a guy to play through injury every season.  The only time he sees time on the DL is when it’s absolutely necessary.  With that said I think it is a little too early to really worry about his condition.  Ruben Amaro is still optimistic that Utley will be in the Opening Day lineup. I would start getting worried if we didn’t start seeing him take infield and getting into some game situations in about three weeks.

As for now, get him the rest he needs so when he does come back he will be strong.  The fact that surgery or cortisone shots are not being discussed is a good thing.  No need for panic yet.

Mike Baumann: Very. Probably more than I should be. Utley, last year aside, has a history of playing hurt rather than sitting out. Since Opening Day 2005, Utley’s missed 103 games, an average of 17 a season, which, while not ideal, mostly came in two long DL stints, one in 2007 and one last year. This does not, however, mean he’s been totally healthy in that time. He’s played with nagging injuries more or less all the time since 2007, and any illusion that this year would be different has been shattered.

While he says he won’t miss any time, if the tendinitis gets worse, Wilson Valdez is the leading candidate to replace Utley at second, and while Valdez deputized ably for Jimmy Rollins last year (the Phillies probably only lost about one marginal win, due to Valdez having by far the best season of his career and Rollins the worst), Utley, when healthy, is a completely different class of player. Statistics like WAR are made to examine situations like this, and the drop from Utley to Valdez is something on the order of six wins.

So I suppose I won’t panic outright until he goes on the DL, but I’m not thrilled by the prospect of Chase Utley playing through pain for another year.

Pat Gallen: Put me at about a 4 on the worried scale. I’m a bit concerned that it’s taking this long for the tendinitis to clear up, but then again I have it in my left knee (as many do) and know what it’s like. It’s not fun and can actually debilitate even the strongest world-class athletes. With rest – and possibly down the road a shot or two – he should be able to deal with it. My concern will skyrocket by about March 20. If he hasn’t had a Grapefruit League at-bat by then, there could be some trouble.

But for now, Utley is still taking some hacks in the cage and is working diligently to get back. He should be in top shape when he’s able to resume full baseball activities. However, I’d set that cutoff point at about March 20 to really get anxious.

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