Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Utley walks across the field after taking batting practice before a spring training game against the Baltimore Orioles

Chase Utley hopes to be back before the All-Star break

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According to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, Chase Utley spoke with reporters earlier this morning and said that he has made some progress with his ailing right knee. Specifically, he has begun to take some “light ground balls” over the past few days.

It doesn’t sound like much, but Utley said he is optimistic about avoiding surgery and getting back on the field at some point this season.

While Utley refused to offer a specific timetable for his return, he confirmed that one of his goals would be to play before the All-Star break. For what it’s worth, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. later added that they have no plans to place Utley on the 60-day disabled list, which at least opens the door for a return in the early part of the season.

Zolecki has the whole conversation over at his blog, so it’s worth checking out if you have the time, but this is my favorite part.

Q: Who is the specialist you saw? And how many have you seen?
A: If I tell you I have to kill you.

Q: What’s the big secret?
A: I don’t know. You guys know me by now, right?

This whole process has been clouded in such secrecy that I wouldn’t be surprised to see Utley blast a couple homers dressed as Green Man on Opening Day.

Mets are considering pushing back Jacob deGrom’s next start

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 18: Jacob deGrom #48 of the New York Mets pitches against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning at AT&T Park on August 18, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Mets are concerned with starter Jacob deGrom and are considering pushing back his next start, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reports. The club thinks the right-hander is fatigued.

deGrom, 28, has had another strong season, currently standing with a 2.96 ERA and a 137/32 K/BB ratio in 143 innings. However, he’s battled command issues in his last two starts. Against the Giants and Cardinals, he gave up a combined 13 earned runs on 25 hits and three walks with eight strikeouts in nine and two-thirds innings.

The Mets are already without Steven Matz, Zach Wheeler, Matt Harvey, and Jon Niese. deGrom’s recent bout is just the latest in what has been a season-long starting pitching struggle for the club. Nevertheless, only the Cubs (2.85) and Nationals (3.57) have posted a better aggregate starting pitching ERA than the Mets’ 3.66.

Rangers call up Carlos Gomez, designate Drew Stubbs for assignment

HOUSTON, TX - JULY 08:  Carlos Gomez #30 of the Houston Astros waits for batting practice to being before playing the Oakland Athletics at Minute Maid Park on July 8, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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The Rangers have called up outfielder Carlos Gomez from Triple-A Round Rock and designated outfielder Drew Stubbs for assignment, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. Gomez is in Thursday night’s starting lineup against the Indians, batting eighth and playing left field.

Gomez, 30, put up a paltry .210/.272/.322 triple-slash line in 323 plate appearances for the Astros. That forced the Astros to designate him for assignment before eventually releasing him earlier this month.

In 14 plate appearances with Round Rock, Gomez racked up two singles, a double, and a triple. The Rangers hope he can fill the void left by Shin-Soo Choo, who is expected to miss the rest of the season.