Cards Sign Cruz and Bennett

Cardinals add depth behind the plate and in the infield with 2006 deals for a pair of 33-year-old veterans.

Monday evening, the St. Louis Cardinals announced from Baseball's Winter Meetings in Dallas, TX, the signing of a pair of free agents - catcher Gary Bennett and infielder Deivi Cruz – each to one-year deals for the 2006 season.

Bennett, 33, batted .221 in 68 games for the Washington Nationals last season with a home run and 21 RBI. Bennett began his career in the Phillies organization (1995-2001) and has posted a career .243 batting mark with 15 home runs and 149 RBI in 458 games. The 6-0, 208-pound receiver recorded 25 assists in just 64 games behind the plate last season and posted a 3.87 catcher's ERA in 523.1 innings behind the plate.

The Cardinals will be Bennett's fifth team in the last five seasons and seventh in his last six. He appeared in a career-high 96 games in 2003 for the Padres and delivered a career-best 42 RBI. He had a career best .265 batting mark in 90 games played with Colorado in 2002.

Cruz, 33, began last season with San Francisco before being dealt to the Nationals prior to the trade deadline. He batted .268 with five home runs and 19 RBI in 81 games for the Giants, and .255 with one RBI in 20 games for Washington. The 6-0, 185-pound Cruz made just four errors last season, appearing at second base, third base and shortstop.

The right-handed hitting Cruz is a .269 career batter, with his best season coming in 2000 as a Detroit Tiger when he batted .302 with 10 home runs, 82 RBI and ranked third in the American League with 46 doubles. Cruz has hit 70 career home runs, including 14 round-trippers with Baltimore in 2003 and 13 with the Tigers in 1999.

These signings bring the Cardinals roster to 36 players currently on the team's 40-man roster.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net

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