Dickie Thon, 33, who had wanted to join a team where he could play regularly, left the Philadelphia Phillies yesterday and agreed to a one-year contract with the Texas Rangers for a guaranteed $700,000.
Thon, a shortstop, hit .252 with nine home runs and 44 RBI in 146 games in 1991. He led the Phillies in games started with 144, was second in at-bats (539) and was third in hits (136), total bases (189) and stolen bases (11).
"He brings a veteran status to the position that we need," said manager Bobby Valentine. "Jeff Huson is still going to play a lot of baseball, but going in, Dickie is going to be the guy I hope will play at least on a semi-regular basis. I don't need him to be Cal Ripken and play every inning, but we do need his veteran presence."
The Phillies had allowed him to become a free agent by not offering salary arbitration in the five days after the World Series.
They have indicated they are committed to Kim Batiste at short.
The Houston Astros, for whom Thon played from 1981-87, were interested in Thon as insurance for Andujar Cedeno.
Thon also was interested in San Francisco because of his close relationship with Giants general manager Al Rosen, but he chose Texas because he said he felt he could get the most playing time.
"I think he looked at the opportunity here and I think he'll get a lot of at-bats," Texas general manager Tom Grieve said. "We've got several young shortstops who are a year or two or three away [Jose Hernandez, Cris Colon and 1991 No. 1 draft Benji Gil], but in the meantime, we're in good shape having a veteran around."
Thon, who made $1.25 million in 1991, will get $600,000 next season and he can earn an additional $375,000 in performance bonuses.
The Rangers have an option for 1993 at a base salary ranging from $650,000 to $900,000, depending on how regularly Thon plays in 1992. If the option isn't exercised, Texas must pay a $100,000 buyout.
Thon had outstanding seasons with the Astros in 1982 and 1983 before being hit in the left temple on April 8, 1984, by a pitch from Mike Torrez of the New York Mets. The injury bothered Thon for much of the next four years.
* Ken Keltner, the Indians third baseman who made two outstanding backhand plays to stop Joe DiMaggio's record 56-game hitting streak, died Thursday, apparently from a heart attack. He was 75.
DiMaggio went 0-for-3 on July 17, 1941, when Keltner made two stops at Municipal Stadium in Cleveland and threw out DiMaggio both times.
"I asked him later on in life, I said, 'I didn't mind you playing so deep, because you knew I wasn't going to bunt, but why were you playing me on the line?' " DiMaggio said yesterday. "And he said, 'All I was trying to do was prevent a two-base hit.' "
* GIANTS: Scottsdale, Ariz., officials announced they have reached an agreement in principle with the Phoenix Firebirds that will bring the Pacific Coast League team to their city starting next season.
The Firebirds, San Francisco's Class AAA affiliate, have played their home games at Phoenix Municipal Stadium for the past 26 years.
Bottom goes up
Next season, minimum salaries will increase for major- and minor-league players under terms of the collective bargaining agreement. A look at the increases, plus those in meal money and the spring allowance:
.. .. .. .. Old .. .. .. New
Majors .. $100,000 .. .. $109,000
Minors .. $26,000 .. .. $28,000
Meal-x .. $57.50 .. .. .. $59
Allow.-y .. $178 .. .. .. $183