Confirmed: Chase Utley to begin rehab assignment today

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UPDATE: Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer confirms that Chase Utley will begin a minor league rehab assignment with Single-A Clearwater on Saturday. He is expected to play five innings in the field.

Friday, 11:48 PM: When asked by Todd Zolecki of MLB.com if Chase Utley was going to begin a minor league rehab assignment Saturday, Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said the following:

“It depends how he feels.”

Another source tells Zolecki that Utley could play tomorrow, meaning that he would be a go as long as his surgically-repaired thumb responded well to a Friday workout.

Friday, 11:19 PM: Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com dropped some word earlier tonight that Chase Utley told some teammates that he could return to the starting lineup as soon as next Tuesday. It seemed overly optimistic at first, but the other shoe has dropped since then. According to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, Utley will begin a minor league rehab assignment with Single-A Clearwater on Saturday.

It all depends on how the thumb responds to game activity, but according to Salisbury, Utley “is so far ahead of schedule” that he could return at some point during the team’s 10-game homestand which kicks off Tuesday against the Giants.

When Utley underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb on July 1, he was originally projected to miss eight weeks, which would have put his return somewhere around the end of August or early September. The All-Star second baseman insisted he would be able to beat that timeline all along. And it looks like he’s about to do it.

The Phillies were shut out against the Mets on Friday night, however they are 16-5 in their last 21 games and currently sit just three games behind the Braves in the National League East. It’s nothing the Phillies haven’t overcome before. And now that they are about to get two of their biggest bats back, it’s going to be awful tough to doubt them.

Orioles are eying Welington Castillo as their primary catcher target

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 25: Welington Castillo #7 of the Arizona Diamondbacks warms up prior to taking an at bat against the Baltimore Orioles in the second inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 25, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
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A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.

Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.

For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.

Report: Phillies agree to minor league deal with Daniel Nava

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 12:  Daniel Nava #12 of the Kansas City Royals bats during the game against the Oakland Athletics at Kauffman Stadium on September 12, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.

Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.