|Wednesday, July 16
Updated: July 17, 1:23 PM ET
Jays trade Stewart for outfielder Kielty
"It's time we start shaking this ballclub up to see if we can get it going in the right direction,'' general manager Terry Ryan said.
Minnesota has lost 22 of 28 games and dropped to third place in the AL Central -- 7-1/2 games behind Kansas City. Last season, the Twins won the division and advanced to the AL Championship Series.
The Blue Jays will pick up the remainder of Stewart's $6.2 million salary, and the Twins will play the rest of Kielty's $325,000 contract.
"I had heard some things that maybe I would be traded but you don't really ever expect it, but when it happens you're in shock," Kielty said. "I won't really know until I put on a different uniform."
Minnesota's biggest problem of late has been starting pitching, but the offense has managed at least four runs in only four of the last 13 games.
Stewart was hitting .294 with 47 runs, seven homers and 35 RBI as Toronto's leadoff hitter and left fielder. He missed almost a month earlier this season with a strained hamstring.
"He's always been a good hitter,'' Ryan said. "It's a situation where we are bringing in a guy to help us ignite this offense at the top of our lineup.''
The right-handed hitting Stewart will play right field, a position split between Kielty, Dustan Mohr and others since the beginning of 2002. He'll also likely bat leadoff -- allowing the Twins to move left fielder Jacque Jones down to an RBI spot and take turns as the designated hitter. Jones is on the disabled list with a strained groin.
Reached at his Miami home, Stewart was caught by surprise.
"Somebody you've been with your whole career, all of a sudden you get a quick call saying, `You're traded, thanks for everything,''' Stewart said. "I'll just try to get on and do whatever I can to help the team out.''
Stewart can be a free agent after the season, but it's too early for the Twins to speculate on whether they'll try to re-sign him. For now, they're just worried about climbing back into the race.
"We're scuffling,'' Ryan said. "This break probably came at the right time. Hopefully we'll come back and have renewed vigor and get after it.''
Stewart, whom the Twins tried to acquire in 2001, stole 51 bases for the Blue Jays in 1998. His best season was 2000 when he batted .319 with 21 homers, 107 runs, 20 steals and 69 RBI.
As for being looked upon to energize a struggling team?
"I guess I don't really look at it like that,'' Stewart said. "I just want to go out there and do my job ... get in scoring position so the big guys can drive me in. There's a little pressure, but that's fine. That's what it's all about.''
Stewart is an average fielder and has only one stolen base this year, but the Blue Jays have ignored their running game in favor of keeping men on base in front of All-Stars Vernon Wells and Carlos Delgado. The duo combined for 181 RBI in the first half.
Kielty, a switch-hitter who turns 27 in August, has a .252 average with nine homers and 32 RBI in 238 at-bats. His .370 on-base percentage is attractive, though, especially to Toronto, and he can play all three outfield positions.
"Once again, we got a player we've liked for a long time,'' Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "He fits everything we're trying to do offensively.''
Toronto has lost 13 of 18 and is nine games behind the Yankees in the AL East, but Ricciardi denied the trade was a signal the Jays were giving up on the playoffs.
"We've got this guy for the next four years before he can become a free agent,'' he said. "This is basically getting Shannon Stewart from the start all over again.''