CLEVELAND, AUG. 9 -- Phil Niekro, a 318-game winner who has never pitched in the World Series, was traded by the last-place Cleveland Indians to the first-place Toronto Blue Jays today for a minor league outfielder.

The trade was announced immediately after Toronto beat the Indians, 5-1. The victory moved the Blue Jays one-half game ahead of New York in the American League East.

"I think anybody would be happy going to a contender," said Niekro, a 48-year-old knuckleballer. "A lot of people picked them {the Blue Jays} to win it. I picked them last year, and I picked them or the Yankees this year.

"They've definitely got everything going for them. They're free of injuries, have good pitching and defense and score a lot of runs. There's no breakdowns on that ballclub."

Niekro is 7-11 with a 5.89 earned run average in 22 starts for Cleveland. The Indians are 25 games behind Toronto. Cleveland got outfielder Darryl Landrum for Niekro.

The Blue Jays rank second in the AL in pitching. They have a solid starting rotation with Jimmy Key, Dave Stieb, Jim Clancy and John Cerutti and have one of the best bullpens in the major leagues with Tom Henke, Mark Eichhorn and Jeff Musselman.

Blue Jays Manager Jimy Williams said Niekro would join the rotation and will probably make his first start Thursday in Toronto against Chicago.

"First of all, he's pitching good. We have a lot of young players on our team and a veteran might pick us up a little bit," Williams said.

"If you look at the last three or four weeks, Jose {rookie Nunez} hasn't been able to get past the third or fourth inning. That's put a burden on our bullpen, and putting Jose back in the bullpen might help him."

Said Niekro: "I'm sure they could have gotten by without another pitcher, but you never have enough pitching. I just hope to live up to their expectations."