Cards acquire 2B Belliard from Tribe for infielder Luna

Updated: July 31, 2006, 2:05 AM ET
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Cardinals improved their infield Sunday, acquiring second baseman Ronnie Belliard from Cleveland for Hector Luna in the latest move by the underachieving Indians.

Belliard, an All-Star in 2004, gives the NL Central-leading Cardinals a steady, everyday second baseman for the stretch run. St. Louis has used Aaron Miles and Luna at second this season, but neither has been particularly productive at the plate.

Hector Luna

Ronnie Belliard

"Sometimes you have to seize the moment," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "This is our chance to win."

Belliard was batting .291 with eight homers and 44 RBI in 93 games for Cleveland. He can become a free agent after the season.

"I've been here the last three years," he said Sunday after the Indians' 7-3 loss to Seattle. "I didn't think I would get traded. I was surprised."

Miles has started 69 games at second base for St. Louis and is batting .262 with one home run and 22 RBI. Luna has started 34 times at second and is hitting .291 with four homers and 21 RBI.

"I'm platooning here. I'll play every day in Cleveland," the 26-year-old Luna said.

La Russa said he thinks Luna can become a "special" player.

"There isn't anybody who's had more confidence in him than our staff," La Russa said. "We've given him playing time. He's responded. I think he has a chance to be a special player and he's still learning."

Cleveland's loss Sunday -- its 11th in 15 games -- dropped the Indians 13 games under .500. After the game, Belliard went around the clubhouse and said his goodbyes.

"We were excited about the season, but everything has gone backwards," he said. "There are a lot of good young guys here. I'm proud I could play with them."

Indians catcher Victor Martinez, perhaps Belliard's closest friend on the Indians, was stunned.

"I'm not mad, but I am sad," he said. "It's the sad part of baseball. You never know what will happen."

The Indians certainly didn't foresee a disappointing season that has left them moving established veterans for younger players instead of fighting for a playoff spot.

After winning 93 games a year ago, the Indians have dropped out of contention in the AL Central and been among the busiest teams as Monday's trade deadline approaches.

In the past month, the Indians have unloaded talent and payroll. They sent closer Bob Wickman to Atlanta and first basemen Ben Broussard and Eduardo Perez to Seattle in separate deals. The club has also talked to teams about veteran third baseman Aaron Boone, who has been moved into a utility role with the arrival of rookie Andy Marte.

The Cardinals should get a boost from Belliard, a steady player for Cleveland since signing as a free agent before the 2004 season.

"The scouts who have been watching the American League and Belliard believe he's a more complete player for our stretch run," La Russa said. "Miles and Hector have both been solid. I just think this guy is a more complete player. He has some credentials.

"When you're a complete player, it means you can play defense, run the bases and get big hits. That's the report I was given. I've seen him some. I've always been impressed. He's a charger. He doesn't hide from it," La Russa added.

The Cardinals now have an All-Star at every infield position, including first baseman Albert Pujols, third baseman Scott Rolen and shortstop David Eckstein.

Belliard's departure leaves the Indians without a veteran second baseman.

Rookie Joe Inglett and Luna, who was signed by the Indians at age 19 in 1998 but lost to St. Louis in the Rule 5 draft after the 2003 season, will likely share the position for the remainder of the season.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press