– The Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA – Chase Utley of the Philadelphia Phillies homered in his first at-bat of the season Wednesday night after missing the first 76 games because of a chronic problem in both knees.

Utley connected in the first inning, and finished 3 for 5 in an 11-7 loss to Pittsbugh.

A five-time All-Star at second base, Utley received a standing ovation during pregame introductions and again when he came to the plate. He was mobbed by teammates in the dugout after circling the bases and came out for a curtain call.

Utley, 33, sat out the first 46 games last year before returning to have the least productive season of his career. He batted .259 with 11 homers and 44 RBI.

Meanwhile, Ryan Howard will begin a rehab stint tonight.

Howard, the 2006 NL MVP, hasn’t played since tearing his left Achilles’ tendon on the final swing of the 2011 season in Game 5 of the NL division series against St. Louis.

Howard will serve as the designated hitter for Class A Lakewood. He could return to the Phillies within three weeks.

And Roy Halladay is making progress in his recovery from a back injury and could throw off a bullpen mound next week.

Halladay, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, has been out since May 29 because of a strained muscle on the right side of his back. He began a throwing program 12 days ago.

Halladay is 4-5 with a 3.98 ERA in 11 starts. He’s pitched at least 220 innings in each of the past six seasons, and four times led the league in innings. He was tied for the NL lead with 721/3 innings this year before he went on the disabled list.