Dodgers trade INF Theriot to Cards for Hawksworth

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ST. LOUIS (AP) - The St. Louis Cardinals got a new infielder in Ryan Theriot, while the Los Angeles Dodgers fortified their bullpen with Blake Hawksworth.

Dealing from surplus after signing free-agent infielder Juan Uribe, the Dodgers sent Theriot to St. Louis for Hawksworth on Tuesday.

The Cardinals completed another deal, too, signing free-agent pitcher Brian Tallet. Theriot and Tallet were teammates on the 2000 LSU team that won the NCAA title.

Theriot hit .270 with 29 RBIs last season with the Chicago Cubs and Dodgers. He has played both middle infield spots, but prefers shortstop.

“We felt this was a really good fit for us,” Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. “This is not necessarily the last move we’re going to make between now and opening day, but if we did have to start today he would likely be our shortstop.”

Music to Theriot’s ears.

“I think every player as a competitor should go in there with that mindset,” Theriot said on a conference call. “I don’t want to be that utility player, I want to be out there playing. I can’t help a team if I’m sitting on the bench.”

Mozeliak said last year’s starting shortstop, Brendan Ryan, would either be traded or would become a utility backup. Ryan has great range defensively but had a poor offensive season, batting .223 with a .279 on-base percentage.

“I’m not going to rule out anything right now,” Mozeliak said. “It’s way too soon to decide that fate.”

Also too soon to say for sure that Theriot will play shortstop. Mozeliak said Theriot could move to second base, where converted outfielder Skip Schumaker has started the last two seasons, if the Cardinals can find a better upgrade at shortstop later in the offseason.

Theriot, who turns 31 next week, was traded with pitcher Ted Lilly from the Cubs to the Dodgers last July 31.

Mozeliak said the Cardinals tried to acquire Theriot last summer.

Theriot batted a career-high .307 in 2008 and is a lifetime .284 hitter in 663 games. He is third among middle infielders in multihit games over the past three seasons, trailing only Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano, and has stolen at least 20 bases in each of the last four seasons.

Theriot became expendable when the Dodgers signed Uribe. The 31-year-old Uribe hit a career-best 24 home runs last season for the World Series champion San Francisco Giants, mostly playing shortstop.

Theriot lost his shortstop job to rookie Starling Castro in Chicago, and thought changing positions affected his offense. He played only second base after the trade to the Dodgers.

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