- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 30, 2010

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Juan Uribe is thrilled to switch sides in baseball’s most bitter West Coast rivalry.

Uribe finalized a three-year, $21 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday, leaving the World Series champion San Francisco Giants to become their archrivals’ second baseman.

The versatile infielder saw nothing unusual about his destination in free agency, praising the Giants even while leaving for a bigger offer than he could get from San Francisco, which offered him arbitration last week in an attempt to keep its championship roster largely together.

“I have nothing bad to say about the Giants,” Uribe said through a translator during a conference call. “I was very happy with how the fans treated me and how the Giants treated me. As far as leaving, I have no control over the teams I play for.”

The 31-year-old Dominican is a two-time champion, also winning a ring with the Chicago White Sox in 2005. He has revitalized his career since signing a minor league contract with San Francisco in 2009, hitting .248 with a career-best 24 homers and 85 RBIs in 2010 while playing in 148 games, including 103 at shortstop.

The free-swinging infielder also homered and drove in five runs during the World Series for the Giants, who beat Texas in five games. Uribe had nine RBIs in all during the postseason while San Francisco won its first championship since moving West in 1958.

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti expects Uribe to be the club’s starting second baseman, particularly after dealing Ryan Theriot to St. Louis on Tuesday for reliever Blake Hawksworth. Los Angeles aggressively pursued Uribe, with Colletti and Dodgers coach Manny Mota maintaining nearly constant contact this month.

“He brings great enthusiasm for the game,” Colletti said. “He’s got thunder in the bat, too. As we witnessed late in the season, he can change the game. His enthusiasm, his passion for the game is what made him a Dodger today.”

Until his postseason heroics this fall, Uribe was best known in San Francisco for his error on an eighth-inning grounder by San Diego’s Chase Headley on July 10, 2009, which prevented teammate Jonathan Sanchez’s no-hitter from being a perfect game.

Colletti thinks Uribe will fill in regularly for Casey Blake at third base, and also will see time at shortstop.

“The versatility is important to us,” said Colletti, the former Giants assistant GM who has signed a slew of players and employees away from San Francisco over the years.

Uribe gives new manager Don Mattingly plenty of options for the Dodgers, who have made several moves in November despite wholesale turmoil in their front office. Los Angeles finished fourth in the NL West in manager Joe Torre’s final season, going 80-82 in its first losing season since 2005 after reaching the NL championship series the previous two years.

Owners Frank and Jamie McCourt are embroiled in a bitter divorce dispute largely regarding who will assume ownership of the team. Colletti promised the Dodgers will have a budget that will allow them to compete in 2011, with a player payroll likely to exceed $100 million.

Colletti already has solidified his rotation by re-signing Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda before signing Jon Garland to a one-year deal last Friday. He still hopes to address the Dodgers‘ deficiencies in left field and at catcher, particularly if he can’t re-sign Russell Martin this week.

The GM has spoken with representatives for Martin, trying to reach a deal before the deadline to tender a contract on Thursday. If Martin doesn’t agree to terms, the Dodgers might allow him to leave as a free agent.

“We had specific needs that were greater and more obvious than they had been in the past,” Colletti said. “If we didn’t make strong efforts early, we would have been left out (of the free-agent market).”

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