Charlie Manuel was on his usual perch behind the cage as Chase Utley took early batting practice at Busch Stadium Thursday, and he couldn't help but smile.

Utley was smoking pitches. The smooth swing, the ball jumping off his bat. This was the Chase Utley of days gone by.

And yet, press Manuel on a timetable for his second baseman to return to action, and the answer remains frustratingly similar.

"I don't even have a ballpark," Manuel said.

The recovery process has been painfully slow for both Utley and Ryan Howard, who continues to work on rebuilding strength in his legs at the team's spring complex in Florida.