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Old 07-19-2007, 05:04 PM   #1
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Default Pirates aquire infielder Izturis from Cubs

Pirates acquire infielder Izturis from Cubs
By Rob Biertempfel
Thursday, July 19, 2007

When shortstop Cesar Izturis pulls on a Pirates uniform Friday, it could mark the beginning of the end of Jack Wilson's career in Pittsburgh.

Thursday morning, the Pirates acquired Izturis and $1.25 million cash from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for a player to be named later.

Izturis' arrival gives the Pirates a glut of infielders. It could foreshadown another move -- such as dealing Wilson -- before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.

Wilson, who is making $5.25 million this season, might be attractive to a pennant contender. He is set to make $6.5 million next year and $7.25 million in 2009.

Wilson, 29, has been with the Pirates since 2001 and is among the leaders in the clubhouse.

"Jack's a fine player and he's done a real nice job for us," Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield said. "We're very comfortable with Jack, but we're trying to win a championship and we're open-minded about anything."

Wilson's agent, Page Odle, yesterday said neither he nor Wilson has been directly contacted by the Pirates about a possible trade.

However, there has been talk around the industry for months that the cost-conscious Pirates are shopping Wilson.

"You're always looking to upgrade, wherever possible," Littlefield said. "But this (Izturis trade) really has nothing to do with Jack Wilson."

Three franchises have hailed Izturis as their "shortstop of the future," but he failed to stick each time. Littlefield believes Izturis still has potential.

"It's an upgrade for us," Littlefield said. "He's a talented infielder and a Gold Glove winner. The Cubs decided to go in a different direction and we think this helps our team."

Izturis, 27, will make $4.25 million this year. He is in the final year of a three-year, $9.9 million contract, which includes a club option for 2008 that would pay him $5.85 million or a $300,000 buyout.

With the second-highest salary on the team, Izturis, who also can play second and third base, was not acquired to fill a backup role.

"I just want to play every day, and now I get an opportunity to go to Pittsburgh," Izturis said. "I don't know the situation over there, but I'm going to miss (the Cubs)."

Starting third baseman Jose Bautista is on the disabled list with a lacerated hand. Jose Castillo, who last year fell out of favor with Pirates management, has been filling in at third base.

Izturis was the Cubs' starting shortstop on Opening Day. But he did not hit, and was replaced by Ryan Theriot.

In 65 games this season, Izturis batted .246 with no homers and eight RBI.

Izturis had "Tommy John" surgery on his right elbow in September 2005, but recovered in time to play in 54 games last season.

At the trading deadline last year, the Cubs dealt pitcher Greg Maddux to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Izturis. Three weeks later, Izturis went down with a hamstring injury.

"He has been banged up a little bit in the past," Littlefield said. "But we've done our homework and are comfortable that he's (OK)."

Cubs manager Pinella said health was not the reason for Izturis' diminished playing time with Chicago.

"Theriot really took over the job," PInella said. "There is nothing wrong with Izturis. Izturis is a good player."

Izturis was highly touted when he broke in with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2001. He won a Gold Glove in 2004 and was named to the National League All-Star team in 2005.

While he was with the Dodgers, Izturis played for current Pirates manager Jim Tracy.

Izturis will join the Pirates before Friday's game against the Houston Astros at PNC Park. The Pirates will have to make a roster move -- one possibility is Don Kelly being designated for assignment -- to make space for Izturis.

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