By PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor
Chase Utley sat in front of the cameras at Bright House Field on Friday and said the chronic knee problems that have given him so much trouble over the past two seasons are finally under control.
"I feel pretty damn good right now," he said.
"This offseason, I trained to play baseball, not just take pressure off my knees," Utley said. "It's worked. I've got strength in my legs, and I can feel it taking ground balls and swinging the bat. There's something there where the last couple of years there hasn't been."
Utley has not played in a spring training game since 2010 and has opened the last two seasons on the disabled list. He expects that streak to end and to be in the lineup Saturday in the Grapefruit League opener when the Phillies host the Astros.
"The program that I followed last year didn't work for me to get on the field," Utley said. "That was the main reason [for the change]. Obviously, I started slow as far as my training went and I made progression that I hadn't done in three or four years. I wanted to get my legs stronger and do it without irritating my knees. That can be difficult at times and the one thing I did a little different was distributing my weight different in my body.
Utley is entering the final year of a seven-year, $85 million contract. He understands he needs to demonstrate his health to secure another contract. At the same time, the Phillies are in a situation where they may want to go in a different direction up the middle if his knee issues continue.
"I feel I have a lot to still do in this game," Utley said. "I'd like to play more than this year, that's for sure."