Chase Utley’s status for Opening Day in doubt as he seeks “additional opinions” on knee injury

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As expected, the Phillies’ announcement this morning regarding Chase Utley’s knee injury doesn’t contain any good news.

Team trainer Michael Ciccotti issued a statement saying that the knee problems have not responded to treatment as well as they have in the past and “an MRI was obtained that demonstrated his prior tendinitis, chondromalacia, and bone inflammation.”

Ciccotti went on to say that “continued non-operative treatment is being carried out and additional opinions will be obtained.”

In other words, the Phillies will continue to treat the injury without surgery but going under the knife (or “additional options”) may eventually be required.

Todd Zolecki of MLB.com has the full statement, which includes a whole bunch of doctorspeak that’s not likely to make Phillies fans feel very good.

As for Utley’s return timetable, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes that general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. “wouldn’t rule out Opening Day … but also downplayed the importance of players being ready for Opening Day.”

Which is another way of saying Utley being in the Opening Day lineup is now unlikely and the Phillies are facing the possibility of extended middle infield action for utility man Wilson Valdez for a second straight season. Valdez started 75 games in place of Utley at second base and Jimmy Rollins at shortstop last season, hitting just .258 with a .667 OPS and remarkable 20 double plays in 363 plate appearances.

RHP Fairbanks, Rays agree to 3-year, $12 million contract

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Dave Nelson/USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Reliever Pete Fairbanks and the Tampa Bay Rays avoided arbitration when they agreed Friday to a three-year, $12 million contract that could be worth up to $24.6 million over four seasons.

The deal includes salaries of $3,666,666 this year and $3,666,667 in each of the next two seasons. The Rays have a $7 million option for 2026 with a $1 million buyout.

His 2024 and 2025 salaries could increase by $300,000 each based on games finished in the previous season: $150,000 each for 35 and 40.

Tampa Bay’s option price could increase by up to $6 million, including $4 million for appearances: $1 million each for 60 and 70 in 2025; $500,000 for 125 from 2023-25 and $1 million each for 135, 150 and 165 from 2023-25. The option price could increase by $2 million for games finished in 2025: $500,000 each for 25, 30, 35 and 40.

Fairbanks also has a $500,000 award bonus for winning the Hoffman/Rivera reliever of the year award and $200,000 for finishing second or third.

The 29-year-old right-hander is 11-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 15 saves in 111 appearances, with all but two of the outings coming out of the bullpen since being acquired by the Rays from the Texas Rangers in July 2019.

Fairbanks was 0-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 24 appearances last year after beginning the season on the 60-day injured list with a right lat strain.

Fairbanks made his 2022 debut on July 17 and tied for the team lead with eight saves despite being sidelined more than three months. In addition, he is 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA in 12 career postseason appearances, all with Tampa Bay.

He had asked for a raise from $714,400 to $1.9 million when proposed arbitration salaries were exchanged Jan. 13, and the Rays had offered for $1.5 million.

Fairbanks’ agreement was announced two days after left-hander Jeffrey Springs agreed to a $31 million, four-year contract with Tampa Bay that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

Tampa Bay remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.