Chase Utley said today that he's anticipating returning to the Phillies' starting lineup in the middle of June.

“Yeah, it’s realistic,” Utley told Todd Zolecki of

Utley, who has been sidelined since straining his oblique back on May 21, has been fielding ground balls and expects to swing a bat within the next couple of days.

“I am definitely feeling better,” he said. “I’m hoping to take some swings in the next three or four days, and at that point I’ll probably know where I’m at.”

Before the injury, he was off to a nice start offensively, hitting .272/.339/.475 with seven homers and 25 RBI through his first 44 games.

The Phillies have taken some big injury hits, losing Roy Halladay, catcher Carlos Ruiz and of course with Utley.

Big Z Pushed Back

The thought was Carlos Zambrano would be in the rotation soon,replacing Tyler Cloyd.  Zambrano's start with Double-A Reading tonight was rained out. Zambrano has thrown 10.1 scoreless innings over his first two starts with High-A Clearweater and was slated to move up to Double-A on Friday. However, he'll now be pushed back to Saturday.  Zambrano is at Double-A getting ready to make his third start since signing with the Phillies.

Cloyd is holding onto his spot in the rotation, pitching very well in Thursday’s victory over the Brewers, allowing four hits and five free passes over 6 2/3 scoreless innings.  Other than his debacle against the Red Sox at Fenway, Cloyd has now delivered quality starts in four of his first five outings on the season.  He’ll look to keep the ball rolling when he takes on the Twins in Minnesota on Wednesday.

Finally on the injury front, John Lannan will begin a minor league rehab assignment Thursday with High-A Clearwater. Lannan has been sidelined since April 17 with a strained left quadriceps muscle, but he's finally ready to return to game action and the Phillies hope to have him back by the end-of-the-month.