Cardinals Sign Free Agent INF Cesar Izturis

With hopes of improving upon the team's defensive play, the St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have agreed to terms on a one-year contract for 2008 with free-agent infielder Cesar Izturis (is-TUR-es).

The Cardinals finished 15th in fielding pct. among N.L. teams in 2007 at .980, their worst finish since 1999 (.978).

Izturis, 27, was a Rawlings Gold Glove recipient in 2004 and was named to the N.L. All-Star team in 2005. He ranks 4th among Major League shortstops (min. 5,000 innings) in fielding pct. (.979) since becoming a regular in 2002 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Cardinals' shortstops combined for 32 of the team's 76 infield errors last season.

"We (the Cardinals) have always prided ourselves on being a sound defensive team," said Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak. "Hopefully Cesar can help us restore that. We've seen first-hand how important solid defensive play can be to a team's overall performance."

The switch-hitting Izturis batted a combined .258 in a 110 games with the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates last season. He batted .276 following a July 19 trade to the Pirates, hitting safely in 22 of his 26 starts (.297; 30-for-101). Iztruis struck out just 19 times in 2007 and he fanned in just three of his 130 plate appearances as a Pirate.

The 5-9, 190-pound native of Barquisimeto, Venezuela, owns a career batting mark of .259 in 768 games. He enjoyed his best season at the plate in 2004, batting .288 with a career-high 32 doubles, four home runs, 25 steals and 62 RBI. Primarily a shortstop, he has also seen playing time at second and third base.

Signed by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1996, Izturis made his Major League debut in June of 2001. He was dealt to the Dodgers prior to the 2002 season and was traded to the Cubs in exchange for pitcher Greg Maddux in July of 2006.

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