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 PHILADELPHIA (AP) -All-Star second baseman Chase Utley has been cleared to begin swinging a bat for the first time since he broke his hand in late July.
Utley also got the green light Monday from hand specialist Dr. Randall Culp to begin throwing without a splint.
A timetable for Utley's return will be set later in the week, but it is welcome news for the Phillies, who trailed the National League East-leading New York Mets by five games heading into Monday night. The Phillies were one game behind San Diego in the wild card race.
Utley was injured when he was hit by Washington's John Lannan in the fifth inning of a 7-6 loss on July 26. Utley stayed in the game, going 2-for-4 with an RBI, but had surgery the next day to put a pin in the fourth metacarpal of his right hand.
Utley is among the league leaders in hitting, batting .336 with 17 homers and 82 RBIs. He was replaced in the lineup by Tadahito Iguchi, who was acquired from the Chicago White Sox shortly after Utley went down.
Despite losing their most complete hitter, the Phillies have kept pace with the Mets, going 13-9 since Utley was hurt.
Meanwhile, a pair of relievers had MRI exams on Monday. Results for left-hander Mike Zagurski (hamstring) and right-hander Yoel Hernandez (right shoulder) are expected Tuesday.
The Phillies open a 10-game homestand, which includes a four-game series with the Mets, on Tuesday.
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