CLEARWATER, Fla. - Continuing their search for both a righthanded hitter and a contingency plan should Chase Utley's hip rehabilitation extend into the regular season, the Phillies signed veteran utility man Miguel Cairo to a minor league contract yesterday.

Cairo, who turns 35 in May, hit .249 with no home runs and 23 RBI in 221 at-bats for Seattle last season. His versatility - he played every position except centerfield and catcher last season - and his .284 career average as a pinch-hitter were obviously attractive to the Phillies.

But Cairo will have to compete with veteran Eric Bruntlett, prospect Jason Donald and nonroster invitees Marcus Giles and Pablo Ozuna if he hopes to earn a spot on the Opening Day roster.

Cairo, a career .266 hitter, has played 13 big-league seasons for the Blue Jays, Cubs, Rays, Cardinals, Yankees, Mets and Mariners. *

- David Murphy