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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.