PHILADELPHIA -- Derrek Lee spent less than half of a season with the Atlanta Braves in 2010, joining the club via trade. But Pirates outfielder Matt Diaz, who played with Lee in Atlanta, said the first baseman immediately became a leader.
"When he walked in Atlanta's locker room, even with the veterans we had last year, he was the instant go-to guy," Diaz said.
He expects Lee to have the same type of effect in the Pirates' clubhouse as he prepares to welcome Lee to a new team for the second time in a little more than a year. The Pirates acquired Lee in a trade Saturday, which sent minor leaguer Aaron Baker to the Baltimore Orioles.
Lee will join the Pirates today at PNC Park, surprising some that he did not travel from New York, where the Orioles were playing, to Philadelphia for Sunday's game.
"I know a lot of people thought he'd be here [Sunday], but knowing what a family guy he is, I had a feeling he would not be here [Sunday], and I'm proud of him for showing up Monday," Diaz said.
Lee's daughter Jada cannot see out of her right eye. She was initially diagnosed with Leber's Congenital Amaurosis, a rare disorder that results in vision loss. Lee became an advocate for the disorder, encouraging people to get tested. He continues his involvement, even after learning his daughter was misdiagnosed.
"He spoke [Saturday] night that he's got some things that he needs to take care of immediately," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "I respect his decision. ... He wants to get here sooner than later."
Hurdle said Lee can help the Pirates offensively and defensively. His familiarity with the National League Central, having spent parts of six seasons with the Cubs, and his playoff experience could prove valuable in the coming months. Hurdle said he was encouraged by discussions he has had with Pirates personnel and others in the league about Lee's recent production.
"D-Lee can hit the ball from line to line," Hurdle said. "D-Lee can field very well. There are a lot of other things he can do well to help us win."
Pirates president Frank Coonelly was pleased with the deal because the Pirates acquired Lee without parting with some of their top-tier prospects.
"In Derrek Lee, we got an opportunity to add a veteran right-handed bat, solid first baseman and move a player who we like in Aaron Baker, but not someone who was among our top prospects," Coonelly said.
Hurdle said Ronny Cedeno might have to go on the disabled list today if his right knee has not improved.
"We need people to be able to get on the field and help us win games," Hurdle said.
Cedeno hurt his knee in a collision with Xavier Paul Thursday and has not played since. He said his knee is better and that he would test it Sunday.
Jose Tabata, who has been running and doing strength exercises with the Pirates' trainers, said his strained left quadriceps felt better. Tabata is on the 15-day disabled list and has not played since June 26. Two setbacks interrupted his rehabilitation earlier in July and rejoined the major league club to work with the team doctors and trainers.
Post-Gazette staff writer Bill Brink contributed to this report. Michael Sanserino: email@example.com , 412-263-1722 or on Twitter @msanserino.