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.

The Red Sox start is ridiculous

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The red-hot Red Sox completed a sweep of the previously red-hot Angels last night, outscoring them 27-3 in their three-game series. Last night’s game was, relatively speaking, a close one, with the Sox winning “only” by six runs. They did manage to strike out Shohei Ohtani three times, though, so some style points help make up for the “squeaker.” Also worth noting that they held Mike Trout of all people to a 3-for-11 line in their three-game series. He did not score a single time and drove in no runs.

That series win puts the Sox at 16-2 on the year. They dropped their Opening Day game to the Rays, but then won their next six games against Tampa Bay, which I’d say makes up for it. In between those two series they swept a two-game series from the Marlins and afterwards they took two of three from the Yankees and three in a row from the Orioles. The only thing that even threatened to slow this juggernaut down is the weather, resulting in a postponement of Monday morning’s Patriot’s Day game. Somewhere in here we should notice that they’re doing this with their starting shortstop and starting second baseman on the disabled list.

As we’ve noted many times, their 16-2 record is the best start in the Red Sox’ 118-year history. It’s also the best start for any team since the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers began 17-1 (let us just forget, for the time being, that those Brewers lost 18 of 20 in May of that year). They are the fourth team since 1961 to win 16 of its first 18 games.

The Sox aren’t simply getting lucky here. They’ve scored 116 runs and have allowed only 50, which is a Pythagorean record of 15-3. They lead all of baseball in offense, scoring 6.44 runs a game, leading individually in average, on-base percentage and slugging. They are only three one hundredths of a run behind the Astros from leading all of baseball in pitching, allowing only 2.78 runs a game. They’re winning all of these games because, in the early going, they’ve simply been that dang much better than everyone they’ve played.

No, the Sox are not going to go 144-18, as they are currently on pace to do. Yes, they are going to find a lot more trouble in their schedule once they play the Orioles, Rays and Marlins less, play a healthier Yankees team more and face off against the Astros, the Blue Jays, the Indians, the Twins and some tougher interleague opponents. This is baseball, obviously, and no one makes it through a season without rough patches, long, short and numerous.

Still: this has been one whale of a start for Boston. Those wins are in the bank. It’s been quite the thing to see.