Cardinals Sign Third Baseman Nick Punto

Long-rumored deal for veteran third base reserve is done as the ex-Minnesota Twin becomes a St. Louis Cardinal.

The St. Louis Cardinals announced Friday that they have agreed to terms on a one-year contract for the upcoming 2011 season with free agent infielder Nick Punto (pronounced POON-toh). The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the deal is for $750,000.

Punto, 33, owns a career-batting mark of .247 with 13 HR, 198 RBI and 91 stolen bases in eight-plus seasons with the Minnesota Twins (2004-10) and Philadelphia Phillies (2001-03). He enjoyed his best overall season in 2006 for the Twins, batting .290 with 21 doubles and 45 RBI.

The switch-hitting Punto began the 2010 season as the Twins' Opening Day third baseman, but batted .238 in just 88 games while dealing with nagging hamstring injuries that forced him to make a pair of stints on the disabled list. He did however post a .294 batting mark with Balls In Play (BABIP) and he continued his versatile infield play by making appearances at third base (48 games), shortstop (31) and second base (12).

The gritty 5-foot-9, 190-pound Southern Cal native has been dubbed as one of the "Piranhas" by White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen for his aggressive and selfless style of play and his Minnesota teammates labeled him the "Human Highlight Reel" for his sparkling defensive play.

Punto was flawless in his 122 total chances at third base last season – making him the majors first player with a mininum of 100 total chances to compile an errorless season at the hot corner since Wayne Garrett of the Montreal Expos in 1977.

Punto's signing puts the Cardinals Major League roster at the maximum 40 players.

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