Chase Utley to begin minor league rehab assignment tomorrow

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Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock…

The countdown for Chase Utley’s return to the Phillies’ lineup is finally upon us.

According to CSNPhilly.com, Utley will begin an official minor league rehab assignment tomorrow with High-A Clearwater. The 33-year-old second baseman began playing in extended spring training games last week, but this will be his first real game action since the Phillies lost to the Cardinals in the NLDS last October.

Utley will be eased into action as the designated hitter before testing his knee by playing the field. Position players are given a 20-day rehab window, so assuming he doesn’t have any setbacks physically, the latest he’ll return to the Phillies is July 2. This sets him up for a potential season debut on July 3 against the Mets. Look for the Phillies to give him as much rehab time as possible.

Jim Hickey steps down as Cubs’ pitching coach

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The Cubs announced on Tuesday that Jim Hickey has stepped down as the pitching coach due to personal reasons. The club will begin a search for a replacement.

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said in a statement, “Jim Hickey notified us yesterday of his decision to step down as pitching coach and leave the organization for personal reasons. We thank Jim for his season with the Cubs and his positive impact on our pitchers. Jim has our full support and we all wish him well.”

Hickey, 57, spent over a decade as a coach in the Rays organization before joining the Cubs for the past season, reuniting with Joe Maddon. The Cubs’ starting staff ranked 10th among all 30 teams with a 3.84 ERA and the bullpen posted an NL-best 3.35 ERA.