Chase Utley leaves Phillies camp to see knee specialist, “doubtful” for Opening Day


Chase Utley kept sitting out games and the Phillies kept insisting it was precautionary and simply an effort to keep him from wearing down during the long regular season, but now it’s clear his chronic knee problems are a much bigger issue than the team was letting on.

Utley has left Phillies camp and will see a specialist following what general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. called a “plateau” in his rehab process.

Here’s more from Amaro, who revealed that Utley is now experiencing problems in both knees:

Chase’s rehab process has come to a bit of a plateau. He has made some strides but not enough to take the field.  He is headed out of town for a few days to be evaluated by a specialist that has helped athletes overcome his issue.  We anticipate that this trip will allow him to build on what he has already done with [athletic trainer] Scott Sheridan in order to get over the hump.  He wants more than anything to be on the field with his teammates and we believe that this is a step in that direction.

That all sounds fine and reasonable, but Amaro and the Phillies have been less than forthcoming about Utley’s situation and have also painted a more optimistic picture than reality indicates with Ryan Howard’s comeback from a torn Achilles’ tendon. In other words, don’t be shocked if the specialist determines that Utley has suffered a setback.

Amaro admitted that Utley will almost surely begin the season on the disabled list, which means slick-fielding 22-year-old rookie Freddy Galvis will be the Opening Day second baseman despite a measly .613 OPS in the minors that includes just 33 games at Triple-A. Utley is under contract for $15 million this season and $15 million next season, and of course Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract extension doesn’t even start until this season.

Royals sign Clay Buchholz to minor league deal

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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Royals have signed pitcher Clay Buchholz to a minor league deal. Buchholz will earn a $1.5 million salary if he makes the club’s major league roster and can earn an additional $250,000 through incentives. Buchholz has an opt-out date set for May 1, which means if he isn’t on the Royals’ 25-man roster by then, he can request his release.

Buchholz, 33, was acquired by the Phillies from the Red Sox in December 2016, but he made only two starts before an MRI revealed he had a partial tear of his right flexor pronator mass. He underwent surgery in April and missed the rest of the season.

The Royals recently lost Jesse Hahn, who was diagnosed with a sprained right UCL. Buchholz would likely be in consideration for a rotation spot if another starter were to suffer an injury. Presently, the Royals’ rotation appears set with Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, Jason Hammel, Jake Junis, and Nate Karns.