Phillies' infielders working in advance
BY MATT GELB, The Philadelphia Inquirer
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Shortly after 11 a.m., Ryan Howard emerged from a side door at Bright House Field and stared at empty dirt.
"Where'd everybody go?" he asked.
Howard missed Tuesday's informal infield drills by about 10 minutes. Had he received the memo, he could have been standing on the same infield at the same time as Chase Utley.
In recent springs, that has not happened often. Howard missed all of last spring following Achilles tendon surgery and subsequent complications. Utley has not played in a Grapefruit League game since 2010 because of his chronically injured knees. But both infielders appeared healthy at the start of camp this spring.
Utley looked nimble during ground ball drills Tuesday. He may have been more active than at any point last spring. The Phillies monitored him closer than ever this winter. The second baseman, on the advice of his doctors and trainers, stayed busy with his knees. The downtime in recent winters had apparently made it more difficult to ramp up in preparation for the season.
Howard looked in better shape than last spring, which was to be expected. After the Achilles surgery in October 2011, he was off his feet for two months and conditioning was a challenge.
Shortly after Howard disappeared, Jimmy Rollins completed some work on the same field. The three infielders are here well in advance of Friday's mandatory report date for position players.
But the real tests, of course, are beyond taking grounders on a half field in February.
Of the 37 players whose presence was required Tuesday, only veteran righthander Juan Cruz failed to report.
Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. labeled it a miscommunication between Cruz's agent and Amaro regarding the report date. Cruz is a nonroster invitee with an outside shot at winning a bullpen job.
Amaro could not say when he expected Cruz to arrive.
The 34-year-old pitcher was productive in 43 games for Pittsburgh last season. He had a 2.78 ERA but was released in August when he refused an assignment to Triple A.