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Chase Utley to miss Opening Day

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley admitted Sunday that he won't be ready for Opening Day, due to ongoing issues with his left knee.

Utley said he is "absolutely" convinced he will play this year, but repeatedly said there is no timeline for his return to the lineup.

"I'm not hitting right now," Utley said in his first public comments about his health in more than a month. "I'm doing things in the trainer's room to build strength, to get more flexible in all areas. And once I feel comfortable enough to hit, I'll hit."

While Utley expressed optimism about his long-term future, he admitted he was "disappointed, upset and not happy" about the unexpected problems that developed this spring in his left knee.

"My right knee last year was the one that bothered me and my left knee felt pretty good," he said of the injury that landed him on the disabled list for two months last season. "This year, it's the complete opposite."

Utley said he thought he was on track with a good rehab program coming into spring training, but struggled when he tried to accelerate the pace in his workouts.

Utley revealed that he then consulted with a rehab specialist in Arizona, Brett Fischer, who has worked with athletes with similar problems.

Utley admitted feeling "frustrated" before his visit with Fischer but said the meeting left much more optimistic. Utley said Fischer recommended some new stretching techniques, along with a new program of "manual therapy," that he began implementing in the last few days.

"I truly believe that I can get past this and contribute for a while. But it's going to take a little time," Utley said. "And the one thing I cannot do is rush it. The more I rush it, the more I don't listen to my knee, the worse it's going to become. So I have to listen to it. I have to respect it and see how it goes."

Utley said he is "a little worried" about his future, but has no plans to retire or undergo surgery.

"I'm not looking at any type of surgery," Utley said. "I'm not looking at any type of injection. I'm just looking at a daily routine of consistent manual therapy, strength training, mobilization of certain joints, things like that. ... Unless someone tells me there's a surgical option that's 100 percent, I'm not really interested in that. I think I can make adjustments with my body without surgery."

Utley also disputed that he was suffering from patellar tendonitis, despite the fact that Philadelphia's team doctor, Michael Cicotti, made that diagnosis a year ago.

Cicotti said in a statement last spring that Utley was dealing with patellar tendinitis, chondromalacia and bone inflammation.

"I don't have patellar tendinitis," Utley said Sunday. "What it's called is chondromalacia, which is a little ruffling of the cartilage underneath the patella. And it's not that bad.

"It's not bad enough to have microfracture surgery," he continued. "It's not bad enough to end my career. It's an issue that I'm going to have to deal with. There's a lot of wear and tear in this game. I just have to get things around my knee to move better, to take a little pressure off my knees."

Utley wouldn't say how long it would take to regain strength and flexibility in the area, but said he plans to take it as slowly as necessary.

"I have to do this right," he said. "I think it's important, not only for this year but for the rest of my career. I'm only 33 years old. I know some people think that's old, but I still feel like I have a lot of baseball left in me."