Lee declines arbitration with Pirates; Ohlendorf released

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DALLAS -- The Pirates released Ross Ohlendorf late Wednesday night, around the same time they learned that Derrek Lee declined their offer of salary arbitration;

Ohlendorf, 29, struggled with right shoulder injuries in each of the past two seasons that kept him inactive for several months. When he returned last season, he went 1-3 with an 8.15 ERA.

Ohlendorf won an arbitration case last offseason and earned $2.025 million, and he was eligible for arbitration again this winter. Arbitration rules stipulate that Ohlendorf could not earn less than 80 percent of his previous salary, or about $1.62 million, making him too expensive.

The Pirates acquired Ohlendorf in 2008 in a trade with the Yankees, along with Daniel McCutchen, Jose Tabata and Jeff Karstens, in exchange for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte. He went 11-10 with a 3.92 ERA in 2009, but 1-11 in 2010. A right shoulder strain kept him out of action for most of the second half of the 2010 season and a good chunk of the 2011 season.

When he returned, his fastball was not effective. He allowed 35 earned runs in 38 2/3 innings.

The signing of Erik Bedard also removed the need to keep Ohlendorf. Bedard will join Charlie Morton, Jeff Karstens, Kevin Correia and James McDonald in the 2012 rotation, with Brad Lincoln a possibility.

The move could be to clear space for newly acquired infielder Yamaico Navarro, whom the Pirates traded for Wednesday, or to clear a spot for a selection in Thursday's Rule 5 draft.

The Pirates were operating under the assumption Lee would wait for Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder -- who are sure to pull in the largest contracts of any free-agent first basemen -- to sign before he agreed to terms on a deal.

General manager Neal Huntington said earlier this week the team would continue talks with Lee about a deal even if he declined to enter arbitration.

Lee joined the Pirates at the trade deadline last season and hit .337 with seven home runs and 18 RBIs in 28 games with the Pirates.

Because Lee was a Type B free agent, the Pirates will receive a supplemental draft pick between the first and second rounds of the 2012 first-year amateur player draft if the team does not re-sign him. The Pirates acquired a similar pick when catcher Ryan Doumit signed with the Minnesota Twins.

Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG. Michael Sanserino: msanserino@post-gazette.com and on Twitter @msanserino.


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