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.

Indians sign Melky Cabrera to a minor league deal

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The Indians have signed free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera to a minor league deal. The pact is pending a physical.

Cabrera, 33, went unsigned this past offseason after putting up a season of .285/.324/.423 with 17 homers and 85 RBI with the White Sox and the Royals.

Cabrera will report to Columbus once he passes his physical and, according to Paul Hoynes, there are no guarantees being made to him that he’ll get playing time. That said, the Indians aren’t getting much outfield production from anyone besides Michael Brantley, and Cabrera’s status as a switch hitter would give Terry Francona some flexibility, so it would not be shocking to see him on the big club after some reps in the minors.