By STEPHEN HAWKINS
The Associated Press
Wednesday, May 31, 2006; 8:27 PM
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Struggling designated hitter Phil Nevin was traded Wednesday by the Texas Rangers to the Chicago Cubs, who are desperately seeking a bopper to help replace injured slugger Derrek Lee.
The Rangers got utility player Jerry Hairston Jr. from the Cubs and will pay most of the remaining difference between Nevin's $10 million salary and the $2.3 million Hairston is making this season.
"We're just looking for somebody who has the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark," Chicago general manager Jim Hendry said. "We explored every possibility the last month to add a bat."
Nevin was hitting .216 with nine homers and 31 RBIs in 46 games for Texas. He split time in the lineup with Jason Botts since the rookie was called up May 23. Nevin had only two hits his last 32 at-bats, both of them homers.
"I'm more of a National League player. The designated hitter deal is not something I like doing every day," Nevin said. "My first reaction was the tradition of Wrigley Field _ it's probably one of my favorite places to visit."
Before going to Texas last July 30 in a trade for pitcher Chan Ho Park, Nevin spent 6 1/2 seasons with San Diego. He hit .284 with 156 homers in 824 National League games, and played 218 games at first base from 2004 until he was traded.
"I completely look forward to being in Chicago," Nevin said. "(The Rangers) honestly helped me out quite a bit. ... I will take nothing but positives from here. Nothing bad happened."
The 35-year-old Nevin wasn't happy when he was traded from San Diego.
"The last time I was traded, it was a different emotion," he said. "I was leaving a place I had been at for a long time."
Nevin showed up this spring with a renewed attitude. He got off to a great start, hitting seven homers in April, the most he had ever hit the first month of a season.
"The way Phil played out of the gate in April, he probably would have been impossible to acquire in a trade like this," Hendry said.
Nevin hit .204 with 12 homers and 39 RBIs in 75 games for Texas, where he started only twice at first base.
"With Phil, we had a little bit of a logjam at the DH spot," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "This provides him with some opportunity to play in Chicago and helping them. This also gives Buck (Showalter) some options of playing the hot hand still, where guys that deserve at-bats will continue to get them."
Mark DeRosa started at third base Wednesday, and Hank Blalock got a break from playing the field as the DH. Without Nevin, manager Buck Showalter said he can envision doing that more often with other players, including shortstop Michael Young and first baseman Mark Teixeira.
"It puts us in a position to hopefully keep our guys fresher as the season goes farther," Showalter said.
After their 14-5 loss to Seattle on Wednesday, the Rangers were 28-25, still with a 4 1/2-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland in the AL West.
Lee, the NL batting champion last year and a two-time Gold Glove first baseman, is sidelined with a broken right wrist. He got hurt in a collision at first base with Rafael Furcal of the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 19.
"It's a much-needed deal for us," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "We needed some right-handed sock."
Hairston, who went to Chicago from Baltimore in the Sammy Sosa trade before the 2005 season, was hitting .207 with no homers and four RBIs in 38 games for the Cubs. The 30-year-old Hairston started 21 games this season, 18 at second base, two in right field and one in left.
"I know these guys are working so hard. I know they're going to turn it around," Hairston said.
The Rangers are off Thursday before beginning a 10-game road trip against the Chicago White Sox. Hairston will remain in Chicago and meet his new team there.
AP Sports Writer Andrew Seligman in Chicago contributed to this report.