Cubs introduce Pierre, hope he fills leadoff void
CHICAGO -- Cubs general manager Jim Hendry introduced Juan Pierre, saying the center fielder fills a void at the top of the Cubs' lineup with "one of the finest leadoff hitters in baseball over the last five years."
"He gets your offense going," Hendry said Wednesday after a news conference at Wrigley Field in which Pierre tried on his No. 9 jersey. "He's a catalyst. He's a disruptive guy to the other team."
Hendry called the leadoff spot one of the biggest problems with last season's Cubs, who finished fourth in the NL Central at 79-83. Chicago had hoped Corey Patterson would fill the slot successfully, but he hit just .215 with a .254 on-base percentage and 118 strikeouts, which is more than twice Pierre's total last season. Pierre has struck out just 211 times in his six-year career.
Playing every game over the last three seasons for the Florida Marlins, he topped 200 hits in 2003 and 2004 before dropping to 181 this year. After hitting over .300 in consecutive seasons, he fell to .276 last year. He also is one of the top base stealers in the National League, ranking in the top two in steals every year since 2001, and has stolen more bases than anyone in the majors since 2000.
"The main thing is to get on base and once I get on base I try to cause as much havoc as possible," said Pierre, who swiped 57 bases last season.
Pierre, who has called his last season "embarrassing," refused to blame a calf injury that he played with all season as the reason for the lowest batting average of his major league career. He said he simply had an off year and that he expected his statistics to improve.
Pierre was acquired from the Marlins last week for right-hander Sergio Mitre and Double-A pitchers Ricky Nolasco and Renyel Pinto.
Hendry said he has been trying to acquire Pierre since the end of the 2003 season, when Pierre hit .305 in the regular season and .301 in the postseason as the Marlins beat the Cubs in the National League championship series and the New York Yankees in the World Series.
"When you have a guy that plays 162 games every year, it makes that guy two stools down think twice about taking a day off," Hendry said.
Pierre is signed only through the end of this season, but both he and Hendry said want to negotiate a longer deal.
"I hope to be here for a long time," Pierre said.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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