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Chase Utley experiences a ‘plateau’ in his rehab, opening day status set at ‘doubtful’

Chase Utley, in happier times (AP)So much for the best laid plans. Two days after saying he hoped to be on the field within a week, Chase Utley left camp in Clearwater on Monday morning to seek more rehabilitation work on the chronic tendinitis that has plagued his right knee.

Utley has yet to play in a spring training game and Phillies GM Ruben Amaro said it is "doubtful" that his second baseman will be ready to go by opening day. Utley also missed all of spring training in 2011 as well as the first 46 games of the season.

Here's the statement from Phillies GM Ruben Amaro (via The 700 Level):

"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 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."

As always, this is only further confirmation that the only optimistic injury news comes when we actually see a player return to the field. All the other periodic updates are pure headline filler, no matter what message is being conveyed.

As for Utley's situation, the future looks like a tough one for the 33-year-old All-Star. Amaro says Utley isn't working with much cartilage in his knee, a condition that never fully rights itself. And not to be all pessimistic, but Phillies manager Charlie Manuel hits the nail on the head when he asked (and answered) the following question:

"Will he ever be 100 percent? I don't know about that. He might never be that."

The setback — or, excuse me, "plateau" — is sad news for a player who is just a few complete years away from assembling a good case for the Hall of Fame. It's also sad news for a fan base that is quickly reconsidering how much longer the Phillies' window in the NL East can stay open. Starting the season without Utley and Ryan Howard in the heart of the order will do that to an outlook.

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