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Sunday, July 31, 2005
Gerut traded for second time in July, sent to Pirates

Associated Press

CHICAGO -- Needing a spark at the top of their lineup, the Chicago Cubs went dealing again with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday, acquiring outfielder Matt Lawton just before the trade deadline.

The Cubs sent outfielder Jody Gerut -- whom they obtained in a trade with Cleveland on July 18 -- to the Pirates.

"I just hope it works out like it did in '03," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said Sunday.

"I think it makes sense for both clubs. I have a good relationship with [Pirates GM] Dave Littlefield and he's a smart guy who had to do it under difficult circumstances financially."

In July two years ago, the Cubs worked a trade with the Pirates to acquire Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton and they helped lead Chicago to the National League Championship Series and mere outs from the World Series.

The Cubs are just 53-52 after losing for the third time in four games on Sunday to the Arizona Diamondbacks, but are still hopeful of winning the NL wild card.

Lawton was 0-for-4 Sunday, including a game-ending strikeout as the Pirates lost in Atlanta. He was batting .273 with 10 homers and 44 RBI for the Pirates and has also played for Twins (1995-01), the Mets (2001) and the Indians (2002-04).

His on-base percentage of .382 was especially appealing to the Cubs. Manager Dusty Baker said he didn't know until talking with Lawton if he would bat leadoff, but was glad to have his bat.

"Matt's a good ball player and we're doing whatever we can to shore ourselves up. Hopefully he can come over here and rejuvenate our offense," Baker said.

Lawton left the Pirates clubhouse in Atlanta still waiting for official confirmation of the deal, but seemed resigned to moving on.

"I just love to play baseball," Lawton said. "I'll be going to a contender. You can't ask for more than that. It's the best of both worlds.

Gerut, who hails from the Chicago suburbs, appeared in 11 games for the Cubs, going 1-for-14, and started Sunday's game against Arizona in left field, going 0-for-2. He appeared in 44 games with the Indians, batting .275, before he was traded for Jason Dubois.

"Nothing should surprise you in this game," said Gerut, who was a teammate of Lawton's in Cleveland and planned to phone him. "Crazy stuff happens. It's the nature of the business, you have to accept it."

Even though he didn't get much of a chance with the Cubs, Gerut said Lawton will be a big plus.

"They're looking for a guy that can play in the outfield and do a little more leading off. Matt's a guy that can fill those needs," he said.

Gerut spent the first six weeks on the disabled list while recovering from major knee surgery last September. Gerut tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Sept. 17 while trying to catch a ball in the right-field corner at Jacobs Field.

Gerut, 27, batted .252 with 11 homers and 51 RBI in 134 games last season, a dropoff from his 2003 rookie year when he hit .279 with 22 homers and a team-high 75 RBI.

Now Gerut could be going to a team where he'll see more playing time.

"You never know," he said. "I don't know what the situation is over there. My job won't change; it'll be to help the team that I'm playing for whether they're in the race, out of the race or whatever. I'll play the same way."

Lawton, 33, is a career .269 hitter with 135 homers. He is a free agent after this season.

The Cubs will also receive a little more than $1 million to offset the remainder of Lawton's $7.25 million salary.