Cliff Hodge out for conference with a MCL sprain, but Dillinger set for return
Cliff Hodge watches the game against Ginebra from the Meralco bench. Marlo Cueto

MERALCO will be one less big man again for its remaining game in the PBA Philippine Cup.

Coach Norman Black disclosed the Bolts will no longer have Cliff Hodge for the remainder of the all-Filipino conference after suffering an MCL sprain (Grade 2) that will sideline him for four to six weeks.

“Cliff Hodge is out for the tournament,” said the Meralco mentor. “He’ll be back around the middle of March.”

The loss of Hodge further added to the injury woes of Meralco, which count on Ranidel de Ocampo (calf) and Jared Dillinger (foot infection) among its casualties.

The injuries couldn’t have come at a worse time as the Bolts are currently making a late run for a playoff berth in the season-opening meet. The team has won its last two outings against Phoenix (92-90) and Barangay Ginebra (84-82) to keep its hopes alive.

The Bolts are currently tied for the ninth to 11th place with TnT Katropa and Blackwater at 4-6, just half a game behind Phoenix and Globalport at 4-5 and trailing the Kings by a full game at 5-5.

They end their elimination round campaign against second-running Magnolia Hotshots (7-3) this Saturday in Cagayan de Oro City in another virtual do-or-die game for the team.

If any, Black said he hopes to have Dillinger back in the active roster by the time the Bolts play the Hotshots.

“JD has (already) practiced a couple of times,” said the Meralco coach, who initially planned to field him during the game against Barangay Ginebra at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan last Sunday, but decided not to.

“Hopefully, he’ll be able to put himself in a better condition this week and be available to us by Saturday against Magnolia.”

Hodge missed Meralco’s first four games after nursing an ankle injury.

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The 30-year-old Fil-Am was up and about by the middle of the tournament, and was actually playing very well against Phoenix when he banged knees with Willie Wilson that resulted in an MCL sprain.   

He sat out the game against the Kings, but provided support to the Bolts from the bench.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos