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Thursday, November 11, 1999
Blue Jays trade RHP Hentgen to Cardinals in five-player deal


TORONTO (Ticker) -- Another subpar season and a hefty salary today made former Cy Young Award winner Pat Hentgen the latest marquee player with a ticket out of Toronto.

The Blue Jays shipped Hentgen and reliever Paul Spoljaric to the St. Louis Cardinals for the relatively modest price of lefthander Lance Painter, catcher Alberto Castillo and minor league pitcher Matt DeWitt.

Last season, Hentgen was 11-12 with a 4.79 ERA in 34 starts. He threw just one complete game and came up an inning short of 200, allowing 32 home runs. The three-time All-Star gave up 225 hits and walked 65 with 118 strikeouts.

Hentgen, two days shy of his 31st birthday, is scheduled to earn a minimum of $6 million in 2000 with a $6 million club option in 2001.

"I have no problem with the Toronto organization, they were great to me there," said Hentgen, drafted by the Blue Jays in 1986 out of Fraser, Michigan. "The Jays thought it was the right move, and I'm excitied about going to St. Louis."

He likely becomes the anchor of what has been an injury-riddled pitching staff in St. Louis. Matt Morris came to spring training as the ace and was lost for the season due to an elbow injury. Veteran Kent Bottenfield was the only Cardinal with double digits in wins last season.

It is the second major deal in four days for Toronto, which traded Gold Glove right fielder Shawn Green to Los Angeles on Monday in a multi-player trade. Blue Jays general manager Gord Ash, however, denied that he was simply trying to dump salary by trading Hentgen.

"If you look at it in isolation, you could draw that conclusion, but we needed to strengthen our club in the bullpen and by adding prospects," Ash said.

It is believed that the team also is trying to deal first baseman Carlos Delgado, who becomes a free agent after the 2000 season. The New York Daily News reported today that the Blue Jays are "close" to a deal that will send Delgado and pitcher David Wells to the New York Mets for a package of talent, but Ash denied those rumors.

"There is no foundation for that," Ash said. "We've had conversations. I don't see anything imminent."

Hentgen's best season was 1996, when he was 20-10 with a 3.22 ERA and won the AL Cy Young. In 1993, he was 19-9 with a 3.87 ERA and helped the Blue Jays to a World Series title.

"He's a tough, fiery competitor who has established himself as a proven winner and a real workhorse when it comes to pitching," Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said.

In his career, Hentgen is 105-76 with a 4.14 ERA in nine seasons -- all with Toronto -- in 252 games. In 1998, Hentgen was 12-11 with a 5.17 ERA.

Spoljaric, a 29-year-old lefthander, appeared in 37 games -- 35 in relief -- for the Blue Jays last season after a trade from Philadelphia and was 2-2 with a 4.65 ERA. He was 2-5 with a 6.26 ERA in 42 games -- five starts -- with the Phillies.

"We like many of the things Spoljaric will ad to our bullpen," Jocketty said. "He's tough of lefthanders with a good curve and slider and has proven that he can be available to pitch on a regular basis."

Painter, 32, is the second lefthander added to the Toronto bullpen this week, as Pedro Borbon was acquired in the Green deal. In 56 games for the Cardinals last season, Painter was 4-5 with one save and a 4.83 ERA. He is signed through the 2000 season with a club option for 2001.

The 29-year-old Castillo hit .293 with four homers and 31 RBI in 93 games with St. Louis in 1999. He also threw out 44 percent (27-of-62) of those attempting to steal.

DeWitt, a 25-year-old righthander, was 9-8 with a 4.43 ERA in 26 starts at Double-A Arkansas. He was a 10th-round pick in the 1995 draft.