Phillies GM Ruben Amaro said he's "cautiously optimistic" Chase Utley will return as a full-time player in 2013 - so are Phillies fans.

The past two seasons, Utley has missed significant time with knees issues and hasn't participated in a spring training in two years.

"He's taking ground balls pretty much every other day," Amaro said. "He didn't take a whole lot of time off. One of the things I think we've all learned, that it probably behooved him to continue to work and be able to keep his knees going. He's actually done very well."

Getting Utley back will be a big key to the Phillies competing with the Nationals and Braves for the NL East and the rest of the National League for a playoff spot.  While Utley is not the MVP candidate of a few years ago, he still provides a stabilizing figure in the middle of the Phillies line-up.

Last season in just 83 games still managed to pop 11 home runs and 45 RBI which would put him on pace for a 22 home run, 90 RBI type of season hitting in front of Ryan Howard.  His .256 batting average is lower than you would like, but he still 43 walks and finds ways to get on base at a .365 clip.  Utley showed that when he plays he can still contribute in many ways, swiping 11 bags last season in addition to legging out 15 doubles.

Is he the Chase Utley we watched develop into a star in the mid-2000's?  No.  However, he is still a tough out, gives you very good at-bats and his health just might be the key to the Phillies 2013 success.

With Utley out last season, the Phillies used Freddy Galvis, Pete Orr, Michael Martinez and others out there at second base.  They hardly came close to producing like Utley, and if the Phillies have to go back down that road again, they might have similar results - early tee times in 2013.