Phillies' Chase Utley uncertain of return

Phillies second baseman Chase Utley said Monday he was confident he won't need surgery on an injured knee that has kept him off the field all of spring training but wouldn't speculate on when he could return, with Philadelphia opening the season Friday against the Astros.

"Right now there is no timetable," Utley said. "I think we've been pretty patient with it, and I think we're going to continue to. I think that's the smart thing to do and we're going to stay on that track."

Utley, who had remained quiet about his status since early March, said he has not returned to running but has been taking ground balls for several days.

"I think we have made some progress for obviously the good," Utley said. "We're going to continue to stay on top of what we've been doing. I'm optimistic at this point we're going to continue doing what we're doing and go from there. "

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. confirmed last week Utley was likely to start the season on the disabled list.

But the Phillies have been reluctant to give daily updates on the health of Utley's right knee, in which he has recently been fighting patellar tendinitis, bone inflammation and chondromalacia.

Asked if he felt he could return to the field this season, Utley said that was his goal.

"I think so. As long as we continue to take steps forward and not backward that's definitely a possibility," Utley said.

Utley said surgery was an option but that, as Amaro has mentioned, there was a risk it would make his knee worse.

"Hey, listen, if surgery was the answer and I could be back on the field in six weeks guaranteed it would be a no-brainer," Utley said. "But I don't think that's the case. I think it's a little unpredictable at this point. I want to take as many steps as I can to avoid that surgery and see what happens."