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“Whenever he returns, it's become apparent that Utley will have to deal with this knee problem perhaps the rest of his career. "Basically his injury is not going to go away and he has to get ready," Manuel said. "His problem is not going away. More than likely, it will maybe never go away. I only go on what the doctors and trainers tell me. Is it better some days than others? Evidently it must be. That's what they tell me." There's no definite solution to fix Utley's knee. He was diagnosed last February with patellar tendinitis, bone inflammation and chondromalacia, which is pain due to irritation under the kneecap. Surgery didn't guarantee a cure, so he opted for rehab instead and played through pain when he came back. "We have to get him to the point where he's taking ground balls regularly and doing those things before we get him into games," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. There's still plenty of time left on the exhibition schedule for Utley to get ready. The team has said seven to 10 games should be enough, meaning Utley doesn't have to play before next Sunday to reach that minimum. "I think as we see things right now, he's going to get enough at-bats and playing time," Amaro said. "We have to get him to the point where he's starting to get on the field, he's not there yet." When Utley comes back, his regular spot as the No. 3 hitter in the lineup will be waiting for him. Utley's production has declined the last few seasons, and he batted second in the postseason with Hunter Pence hitting third. But Manuel doesn't see any other options, especially with Ryan Howard out indefinitely. "Chase Utley is our three-hole hitter," Manuel said. "When he's well and ready to play, he's our three-hole hitter. He's the best three-hole hitter we got. He's the one guy on our team that works the count. He has a high on-base percentage and when he's healthy, he's definitely a (RBI) guy and he knows how to run the bases. He's our three-hole hitter. Can he hit second? Yeah. He can hit fourth." Utley batted just .259 with 11 homers and 44 RBIs in 103 games last year, and his batting average and slugging percentage have dropped each season since 2007. The 33-year-old Utley once was one of the best all-around players in the majors. He batted .301 and averaged 29 homers and 101 RBIs between 2005-09. Those numbers dipped to .267, 14 homers and 54 RBIs in the last two seasons. Of course, injuries have played a role in the slippage. He missed 47 games in 2010 when he had hand surgery, and 59 games last year.
Basically (Utley's) injury is not going to go away and he has to get ready. His problem is not going away. More than likely, it will maybe never go away.” -- Phillies manager Charlie Manuel