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Tuesday, December 18
Updated: December 19, 5:34 PM ET
 
Martinez replaces Big Mac at first base

Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Tino Martinez signed a $21 million, three-year contract with St. Louis on Tuesday, giving the Cardinals a replacement for Mark McGwire at first base.

Tino Martinez
First Base
St. Louis Cardinals
Profile
2001 SEASON STATISTICS
GM HR RBI BB SO AVG
154 34 113 42 89 .280

"I don't think any of the fans expect me to do what he (McGwire) has done," Martinez said. "I do think they expect me to go out and produce."

Martinez, replaced in the New York Yankees' lineup by the signing last week of free-agent slugger Jason Giambi, was introduced at a news conference.

"You are never able to truly replace a player of Mark McGwire's stature," general manager Walt Jocketty said. "When looking at Tino's credentials, we felt that he was the perfect guy to not only help offset the loss of McGwire, but he'll also be someone who will lend valuable leadership to our ballclub."

Martinez said the Cardinals were his first choice once he learned the Yankees planned to go with Giambi.

"As soon as Mark McGwire announced he would retire, I started thinking it (St. Louis) would be a great place to go," he said.

The 34-year-old Martinez hit .280 with 34 homers and 113 RBI last season for the AL champion Yankees. He has driven in at least 100 runs in six of the past seven seasons and is a two-time All-Star, a good fielder with a career .996 fielding percentage.

Perhaps more important for the Cardinals, he was part of a Yankees team that won four of the last six World Series.

"We've got a winner that's been added to the St. Louis Cardinals," Manager Tony La Russa said.

Martinez, a left-handed hitter, is a career .274 hitter with 263 homers and 1,002 RBI in 12 seasons -- six with Seattle, six with the Yankees.

The Cardinals have been searching to fill a hole in their lineup since McGwire retired in November. The team had also expressed interest in free-agent outfielders Reggie Sanders and Moises Alou.

La Russa said the Martinez signing will mean that NL Rookie of the Year Albert Pujols will move to third base. Utility player Placido Polanco, who hit .307 last season, probably will play left field.

The Cardinals tied Houston for the NL Central title last season but had to settle for a wild-card berth on a tiebreaker. St. Louis was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by eventual World Series champion Arizona.

The Cardinals made the playoffs despite little production from McGwire, who, still hampered by an injured knee, hit just .187 with 29 homers, and despite the lack of a true closer.

Earlier this month, the Cardinals addressed the closer issue by signing free agent Jason Isringhausen from Oakland. To free salary to sign Martinez, the Cardinals last week traded right-handed starter Dustin Hermanson to Boston for three prospects.

"Our number one objective was to find a closer," Jocketty said. "Number two was to find a hitter, a run producer for the middle of our lineup. I can honestly tell you we got the closer we wanted and we got the hitter, the run-producer we wanted."

Martinez went to the same high school in Tampa, Fla., as La Russa. His father and La Russa have been friends for years. He said La Russa and his former manager, Joe Torre, have a lot in common beyond the fact that both have managed the Cardinals.

"Both are professional managers who expect a lot from their teams," Martinez said. "There's not a whole lot of fooling around. It's all about winning."




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AUDIO/VIDEO
Audio
 New home
Tino Martinez sees the Cardinals as a great fit for him.
wav: 331 k | RealAudio

 Hero's welcome
Tony LaRussa likes the experience that Tino Martinez will bring to St. Louis.
wav: 207 k | RealAudio

 Dan Patrick Show
Is Tino Martinez a bargain at three-years, $21 million? Cardinals skipper Tony La Russa answers.
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