The news, or lack thereof, continues to be positive for Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, who is rehabbing from his late-November hip surgery.

Utley had another follow-up appointment yesterday in New York City, where he met with hip specialist Dr. Bryan Kelly, who performed his surgery.

The Phillies are "cautiously optimistic" that Utley could begin light-impact activities in the near future, including running underwater.

It is still too early to tell how late into the season Utley will be sidelined. He said last month he is hoping to return by Opening Day, although the official prognosis called for him to be sidelined for 4 to 6 months from the Nov. 24 surgery.

"He's at or ahead of schedule in most areas," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said yesterday, "so we are really pleased. We are cautiously optimistic that he will be able to do some weight-bearing stuff.''

The Phillies do have other options in case Utley misses the first month or 2 of the season. The club signed veteran second baseman Marcus Giles to a minor league contract earlier this month, although it has expressed confidence in incumbent veteran Eric Bruntlett and top prospect Jason Donald.


Third baseman

Pedro Feliz,

who underwent back surgery in November, will visit Philadelphia at some point in the next few weeks to be evaluated by the team. Feliz, who is expected to be ready to play near the start of the season, has been rehabbing near his California home . . . Although the Phillies have kept tabs on free agent lefthander

Eric Milton

and free agent righthander

Chad Cordero,

neither appears to be a viable option at this point. Milton, who pitched for the Phillies in 2004, is recovering from elbow surgery. Cordero, who underwent shoulder surgery last year after saving 113 games for the Nationals from 2005-07, recently held a workout in California but isn't expected to be ready to play before the end of Phillies reliever

J.C. Romero's

50-game suspension. *

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