Every so often, the disappeared Phillies materialize on the field at Citizens Bank Park and put on a bizarre play, in which they mimic the actions and positions of baseball players, so as to not lose their instincts entirely.
"I remember this," Chase Utley whispers hoarsely to himself, staring at a bat. "I used to do things with this."
Later, after he remembers that it's not a back scratcher or Ben Revere-swatter, he stands in for someone like Aaron Harang as he winds up and throws phantom pitches. Eventually, Utley's arms begin to swing the bat as the haze over his memory lifts and he recalls, as though from another lifetime, hitting the ball so hard it landed in the stands.
"Mmm, yes," Utley says, giving a distant look to the bat in his hands. "I remember you."
"What?" asks the terrified coach throwing him pitches. His tensions are not soothed as Utley begins to howl at the sky with each gentle swing.
Chase Utley, lone wolf in pregame BP at CBP. He's taking soft toss. Could begin rehab assignment next week. pic.twitter.com/IrAVmU57Vm— Ryan Lawrence (@ryanlawrence21) July 22, 2015
Yes, it's true. Chase Utley is doing "baseball activities," which may sound like a penciled-in time slot on a summer camp calendar, but is actually what it's called when a thought-dead ballplayer returns to work following a stint on the disabled list that was so long he may have forgotten most of the rules.
Utley, beaten by Ken Rosenthal to reporting his own news, bubbled over with optimism as his swelled-up ankle returned to normal human size:
"I do feel a little bit better," he said. "I have a little bit more motion in my ankle that I was lacking before. But it's still going to take a little bit of time to have the muscle memory remember the right way to do it."
Instead of sliding right back into his spot in the Phillies lineup, he'll pack his bags and ride the rails for a while, traveling from affiliate to affiliate as part of a rehab program. I'd show you some of the numbers he put up prior to the announcement that he'd been secretly playing on a bum ankle, but you don't need to see them. You remember what was happening back then, in the before time. It was bad. Ruben Amaro said Cesar Hernandez was the best second basemanon the team. It. It was bad.
This rehabbing has not begun yet, mind you, and there isn't really a time in place for it to start just yet, but you may see Chase Utley back on a baseball field near you some time soon. And don't be surprised if he has the look of a man slowly remembering who he is, and what he was put on this planet for.
And don't make eye contact with him. They're pretty sure that coach soft tossing with him turned into a pile of ash.