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

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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.

Orioles are eying Welington Castillo as their primary catcher target

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 25: Welington Castillo #7 of the Arizona Diamondbacks warms up prior to taking an at bat against the Baltimore Orioles in the second inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 25, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
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A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.

Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.

For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.

Report: Phillies agree to minor league deal with Daniel Nava

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 12:  Daniel Nava #12 of the Kansas City Royals bats during the game against the Oakland Athletics at Kauffman Stadium on September 12, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.

Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.