Manuel: Chase Utley is “slowly getting better”

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Phillies second baseman Chase Utley is finally beginning to show signs of progress in his ongoing recovery from right knee tendinitis.

According to Dave Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News, Utley has been cleared to start a running program and did some light jogging on Wednesday without feeling any abnormal discomfort in his knee.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel expressed some optimism about his All-Star second baseman on Thursday, but cautioned that Utley is not close to returning to the major league starting lineup.

“It’s still the same,” Manuel said. “It’s a day-to-day thing. He’s slowly getting better. He’s slowly feeling better. Hopefully, he keeps going that way.”

The Phillies have given most of the open playing time at second base to Wilson Valdez, who has rewarded them with a cool .353/.389/.441 batting line and five RBI through 37 plate appearances. That high level of production won’t last, but the Fightin’ Phils have enough pitching and enough other pieces to remain near the top of the National League East standings until Utley is finally ready to roar.

Dodgers designate Sergio Romo for assignment

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The Dodgers announced on Thursday that the club activated pitcher Grant Dayton from the 10-day disabled list and designated pitcher Sergio Romo for assignment.

Dayton, 29, went on the disabled list earlier this month with neck stiffness. He’ll resume with a 3.63 ERA and a 20/12 K/BB ratio in 22 1/3 innings.

Romo, 34, signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Dodgers in February. It didn’t really work out, as the right-hander posted a 6.12 ERA with a 31/12 K/BB ratio in 25 innings. His peripherals are still decent, so it wouldn’t be surprising if a team in need of a bullpen arm makes a deal with the Dodgers within the week.

Nate Karns underwent season-ending surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome

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MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports that Royals pitcher Nate Karns underwent surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome on Wednesday. He’s expected to be ready for spring training next year. Karns went on the disabled list in May with an elbow injury and didn’t make much progress.

The Royals acquired Karns from the Mariners in January in exchange for outfielder Jarrod Dyson. Over eight starts and one relief appearance, the 29-year-old right-hander compiled a 4.17 ERA and a 51/13 K/BB ratio in 45 1/3 innings.

Karns will enter his first of three years of arbitration eligibility after the season, so he’ll be under the Royals’ control through 2020.