CLEARWATER, Fla. - Chase Utley will likely start the season on the disabled list for the second straight year because of problems with both knees.
The five-time All-Star second baseman left camp to see a specialist, and it's uncertain when he'll be ready to play for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Utley was believed to have only an injured right knee, but general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. indicated Monday the left one may be causing more trouble.
"The guy's got bad knees. We know it and that's a fact," Amaro said. "We're just trying to limit and also make sure he's ready to go and play the bulk of the season. He told me his right knee feels much better. His left has been bothering him."
Utley hasn't played in a game this spring because of his condition, which forced him to miss all of last spring and the first 46 games of the regular season. 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 haven't had any discussions about surgery," Amaro said. "He's got a cartilage issue. You can't grow cartilage. It's partially tendinitis and partially a cartilage issue."
The tight-lipped Utley said Saturday he hoped to play in a game this week. Obviously, those plans are on hold. However, Amaro expressed some optimism that Utley isn't going to miss a significant part of the season.
"He's been improving the last couple weeks, but not to the point where he can get on the field," Amaro said. "I would think it would be doubtful for him to be prepared to play second base for us on opening day. Really this is about making sure he's healthy and playing a significant amount of the season so whatever time it takes for him to feel confident about his knees, that's the important part whether it's tomorrow or the next week."
Amaro said he's not looking outside the organization to replace Utley. Placido Polanco also can play second base if the Phillies wanted to add a third baseman instead.
The plan for now is to use Freddy Galvis at second. Galvis, a top prospect once considered the shortstop of the future, has been adjusting to the new position.
"I keep working hard, so we'll see what happens," Galvis said. "It's a little different angle. You see the whole field at shortstop. Biggest difference is turning the double play. At shortstop, I can see the runner. But so far, everything is good."
Galvis has drawn high praise from manager Charlie Manuel and Amaro.
"Freddy's done a nice job for us," Amaro said. "Until somebody unseats Freddy, I think he's one of the candidates. I like Galvis. Has Galvis done anything to warrant not playing? He's been our best player this spring. We're going to give him a chance."
The Phillies already are without Ryan Howard. The former MVP is recovering from surgery on his left Achilles' tendon and is unlikely to return before June. Howard remains in a walking boot, though he's doing some light exercising and cardio work.
Howard suffered a setback early in spring when he developed an infection around the wound near his surgically repaired leg.
"Status quo on Ryan, trying to heal the wound and once the wound is healed, we'll get him doing more stuff," Amaro said.
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. It's possible the 33-year-old Utley may never be the same player who once was considered one of the best all-around stars in the majors.
"I worry about Chase because it's a chronic knee problem," Amaro said. "About his career? I don't know."