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Utley plays rehab game with 'no reservations'

Utley plays rehab game with 'no reservations'

Utley plays rehab game with 'no reservations'

READING, Pa. -- The familiar sound of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" blared over the speakers as Chase Utley stepped into the batter's box to face real pitching for the first time in nearly a month.

It wasn't too loud, though. These weren't big league speakers. No, they were those of FirstEnergy Stadium, the home of the Reading Fightin' Phils -- the Double-A affiliate of the Phillies -- for whom Utley played eight innings in the first game of a rehab assignment for his strained right oblique on Wednesday.

Utley, a five-time All-Star, went 0-for-4, but put some good swings on the ball and looked comfortable in the field. The second baseman has not appeared for the Phillies since May 20, but said he played with "no reservations."

Since the injury, Utley has repeatedly said he does not want to rush back and risk re-aggravating his side. And even with the finish line of the Majors close in sight, Utley said he was still unsure of when exactly he could be back with the Phillies.

"I will talk to [general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and manager Charlie Manuel] and kind of put a game plan together there," Utley said. "But most importantly, feeling good out there and not holding back was something I wanted to accomplish."

Utley noted it's a "possibility" he could be back with Reading on Thursday, as the Phillies have the day off but their Double-A affiliate is at home again.

A .272 hitter with 25 RBIs in 44 games this season, Utley originally hurt his side while taking swings during batting practice in Miami. He was also cautious about doing activities that could add strain to his oblique -- like swinging and throwing -- until the past 10 days.

Until Wednesday, Utley had not taken cuts at pitches without being surrounded by a batting cage in 30 days, and he said that he thought his swing was at full strength.

"It was nice facing someone other than a BP pitcher," said Utley, a career .287 hitter. "The guy tonight was pretty good. It was good to see a guy who had some velocity, who had a breaking ball."

Although he did not record a hit, Utley hit a few balls hard, including a drive to deep left-center field in his first at-bat. He also got a chance to run the bases when he reached on a fielder's choice, and though it looked like he had a chance to score from first on a hit-and-run, he was held at third base.

On the field, Utley saw limited action, but fielded one grounder, one popup and a few throws on stolen base attempts without any problems. He noted he was originally on a seven-inning limit, but stayed in the game in the eighth to get one extra at-bat.

If Utley is back in the mix with the Phillies soon, it will be the team's second starter returning from injury recently. Catcher Carlos Ruiz returned to the Phillies' lineup Tuesday after missing nearly a month with a strained right hamstring.

The returns of Utley and Ruiz would bolster the Phillies' everyday lineup, and Utley said the experience the two veterans have could have a positive impact on the team, which is still holding out hope of making a run for a playoff spot.

"We've all played in crunch time, which I think is important coming down the stretch," Utley said.

Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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