By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It was just an extended Spring Training game in June, but knowing that Chase Utley and Ryan Howard were both swinging the bat in Clearwater was a welcome thought in Philadelphia.
“Well I saw two big league hitters, if this was a football game, I think they’d be entering the 4th quarter of their recovery. Seeing some legitimate pitching, albeit young, inexperienced pitching, ” Comcast Sportsnet’s Jim Salisbury told 94WIP’s Michael Barkann and Ike Reese. Salisbury watched every at-bat from Utley and Howard today, and liked what he saw. “I thought they both swung the bat pretty well, especially Utley. He’s probably ahead of Howard in terms of seeing pitches,” he said. Howard went two for four with two singles and two walks, and Utley went two for five with a double, home run and a walk.
“Utley is running the base paths. The next step for Howard would be to get on the base paths,” Salisbury said. In extended Spring Training games, the Phillies are able to get Howard and Utley at-bats every inning.
The next step? “They’ll go on an official rehab assignment, where they can’t bend the rules,” Salisbury said. Where you can’t lead-off every inning. Where you have to run. That’s probably a week,two weeks away. Those assignments can last up to 20 days. And I think they’ll both take the better part of that 20 days. Because I know in Utley’s case he felt like he came back a little early last year. He was disapointed in his play. He wants to really be ready this year.”
Neither player has a major league at-bat this year, but Salisbury says that might not be far away. “If all goes well I woud imagine, with the Phillies, sometime in the first week or two in July,” he said.