Insiders - Showtime for Kennedy

Adam Kennedy never really got the chance to show the Cardinals he was worthy of being their top pick in the 1997 draft. Now, nearly 10 years later, he will get that chance.

Kennedy, who finished up the 1999 season at second base for the Cardinals, lost that role the next spring after Fernando Vina was acquired in a trade. Before the 2000 spring training was over, Kennedy had been sent to Anaheim in a trade that brought the Cardinals All-Star center fielder Jim Edmonds. After seven successful seasons with the Angels, Kennedy has come back to the Cardinals as their second baseman for the next three seasons by virtue of a free agent contract that will pay him $10 million.

General manager Walt Jocketty said the organization had decided Kennedy, a left-handed batter, would be a better fit for the Cardinals than right-handed-hitting Ronnie Belliard, who had finished the 2006 season with St. Louis before becoming a free agent. Kennedy also will be reunited with shortstop David Eckstein, with whom he teamed on the 2002 World Series champion Angels.

"He's a clutch player," Eckstein said. "He always seems to come up in the big situation and come through."

Kennedy said it was a "huge privilege" to return to the Cardinals. "I've come a long way as far as learning the game of baseball. The timing for leaving here was right at that time, and it's even better timing coming back," he said.

Kennedy, who has a .280 lifetime mark, hit both at the top and bottom of the Angels' lineup. He is projected as either a seventh-place or possibly second-place hitter with the Cardinals. His signing gives the Cardinals three left-handed batters (Kennedy, Edmonds, Chris Duncan) in their prospective lineup and five right-handed batters (Eckstein, Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Juan Encarnacion, Yadier Molina).


--RHP Kip Wells was the first of presumably three starting pitchers to be signed by the Cardinals. Wells, who signed a one-year, $4 million contract after missing much of last season because of arterial replacement surgery and then a broken foot, has long been a Cardinals target. But Wells was 2-6 with a 5.59 ERA against the Cardinals with the Pirates. He split the 2006 season between Pittsburgh and Texas and finished 2-5 with a 6.50 ERA.

GM Walt Jocketty said, "Right now, we need to probably acquire two more pitchers -- two more starters. Whether that's through trade or through free agency, I think it was important that at least we get Wells done."

--RHP Adam Wainwright, who was the Cardinals' closer during the playoffs, will be in the bullpen pending further pitching acquisitions, GM Walt Jocketty said. But Jocketty said also that he expected RHP Jason Isringhausen, who had hip surgery, to be ready for the start of the season.

--The Cardinals' catching corps was completed when they re-signed 2006 backup Gary Bennett and inked former Cardinal Eli Marrero to a minor league contract. Marrero initially had been signed by the Cardinals as a catcher, but after getting some time in the outfield with them, he balked at catching and was dealt to Atlanta. Jocketty said Marrero, who has been with several teams since he played for the Cardinals, had agreed to catch again.

--If the Cardinals retain any of their free agent pitchers, it would seem they have the best chance at RHP Jeff Weaver, who won the final game of the World Series. They have interest in keeping RHP Jeff Suppan and LHP Mark Mulder, who will miss half of next season after shoulder surgery. They have no interest in retaining RHP Jason Marquis. Suppan and Mulder were the only two among the Cardinals' free agents who were offered arbitration on Dec. 1.

BY THE NUMBERS: 16 -- Number of stolen bases in 2006 for 2B Adam Kennedy, who would have led the Cardinals last season with that number.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The respect I have for everybody here never left." -- 2B Adam Kennedy, after signing a three-year contract to return to the club that traded him in 2000.

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