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01/27/12 12:38 PM EST

Phillies ink Pierre to Minor League deal

In a small but potentially significant move, the Phillies signed speedy Juan Pierre to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training on Friday.

Pierre, 34, batted .279 as the everyday leadoff hitter and left fielder for the White Sox last season. He stole 27 bases and was thrown out 17 times, but he did steal 68 bags for Chicago in 2010.

The Phils allowed Raul Ibanez to depart as a free agent this offseason, and it appeared at the outset that John Mayberry Jr. would inherit that spot in left field based on the fact that he batted .309 with 10 homers and 34 RBIs in his last 149 at-bats of the regular season.

Mayberry still has the inside track, but he also faces significant competition for playing time.

While talented-but-raw 24-year-old Domonic Brown may well get a full season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley to polish his skills, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said recently that he could still play his way onto the big league roster with an impressive spring.

Amaro also signed veteran Laynce Nix, who has been used primarily against right-handed pitching throughout his career.

The addition of Pierre adds another wrinkle to the situation and potentially gives manager Charlie Manuel another option in left.

Pierre has 554 career stolen bases, the most of any active player, and ranks 26th on the all-time list, three behind Davey Lopes. In the last 11 years, Pierre has 1,958 hits, fifth most among all players.

"He's not the same blazer he was with Florida and Los Angeles, but we think he can provide something we were grossly lacking on our bench last year -- speed," Amaro said. "We did not sign him to be our everyday left fielder. The bulk of the time will go to John Maybery and Laynce Nix, and, of course, Dom Bown is still in the picture.

"But we'll put [Pierre] in the mix and see what happens. We view him as a guy who can give us another element. He can be a very useful guy."

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.