DANA POINT, Calif. (AP) _ When he walked off the mound to a standing ovation in Toronto's home finale last season, Pat Hentgen had a feeling it could be one of his last appearances in a Blue Jays uniform.

He was right. Hentgen, the 1996 AL Cy Young Award winner, and left-handed reliever Paul Spoljaric were traded to the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday for left-hander Lance Painter, catcher Alberto Castillo and minor league pitcher Matt DeWitt.

``Part of me is sad, but part of me is excited,'' Hentgen said in a conference call after the trade was finalized at the general managers' meetings. ``Whether it was business or personality or overall performance, the Jays thought it was the right move.''

The trade might have been a combination of the three. While the Cardinals get the pitching help they needed, the Blue Jays get rid of Hentgen's $6 million salary for next season.

``These things are very difficult,'' Toronto general manager Gord Ash said. ``He's been in the organization for a number of years. I was there with him when he started. We talked for quite a while yesterday. He understands that business is business.''

Hentgen, a fifth-round pick by Toronto in the 1986 amateur draft, had played for the Blue Jays for eight seasons. He was a key member of the 1993 World Series championship team.

Hentgen said he had no hard feelings toward the Blue Jays, but thought manager Jim Fregosi wanted to see him dealt.

``Obviously, Jim felt like I wasn't in the plans for the year 2000,'' Hentgen said.

Hentgen was 11-12 with a 4.79 ERA in 1999 _ third-highest among Toronto's starters. In 34 starts, he pitched 199 innings, allowing 225 hits. He struck out 118 and walked 65.

Since going 20-10 with a 3.22 in his AL Cy Young Award-winning season of 1996, Hentgen is 38-33, including 12-11 with a 5.17 ERA in 1998. Lifetime, he's 105-76 with a 4.14 ERA.

Hentgen went through a dead-arm period toward the end of the 1998 season but said he feels good now.

``I'm healthy and I think I'm over it,'' he said. ``I'm able to take the ball every fifth day.''

Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty, who's seen his rotation ravaged by injuries, said he tried to acquire Hentgen all of last year and isn't concerned with his post-Cy Young dropoff.

``We followed him a lot last year,'' Jocketty said. ``I think he had some arm trouble a couple years ago and he's coming back from that. Really, the second half of last year, he pitched very well.

``We think he should be fine, plus changing leagues I think will be a big asset for him.''

Jocketty said it's still possible the Cardinals could reacquire right-hander Andy Benes, who exercised an option that allowed him out of the final year of his contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Benes' younger brother Alan pitches for the Cardinals and has come back from major arm surgery.

Jocketty said it's still possible the Cardinals could reacquire right-hander Andy Benes, who filed for free agency

Painter, formerly with the Colorado Rockies, was 4-5 with a 4.83 ERA and one save last season, while pitching 63 1-3 innings.

The Blue Jays have exercised their option on catcher Darrin Fletcher's contract but needed more help behind the plate. In 93 games, Castillo hit .263 with four homers and 31 RBIs.

DeWitt was 9-8 with a 4.43 ERA at double-A Arkansas.

This was Toronto's second big deal in four days. On Monday, the Blue Jays sent Shawn Green and a minor league infielder to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Raul Mondesi and reliever Pedro Borbon. The Dodgers then signed Green to an $84 million, six-year contract.