SAN FRANCISCO -- A technicality in baseball's transaction rules forced the Pirates to release Michael Crotta in order to remove the right-hander from the 40-man roster. But the Pirates remain hopeful that Crotta will be back pitching in the organization soon.

Players who are on the disabled list -- including the Minor League one -- cannot be outrighted off the 40-man roster. That left the Pirates with no option but to release Crotta when the club needed to open a spot for Ryan Ludwick.

Now that Crotta has been released, he must go through unconditional release waivers. If he goes unclaimed, Crotta will be a free agent. If a team claims Crotta, the right-hander has the option of signing with that club or rejecting the claim and signing elsewhere.

General manager Neal Huntington said that the Pirates are optimistic that after this whole process is complete, Crotta will choose to re-sign with Pittsburgh.

"It was purely, hopefully, a paperwork move," Huntington said. "We like him. We still think the world of him. We just got into a roster crunch around the Trade Deadline and made a very difficult business decision. We hope to get Michael back helping the Pirates win games at the Major League level."

Crotta has had two stints on the DL this season. He appeared in 15 games with the Pirates before being sidelined with right elbow inflammation in mid-May. Crotta returned in late June and joined the Triple-A Indianapolis bullpen until getting hurt again three weeks later.

Pearce working to rediscover swing

SAN FRANCISCO -- The timing was terrible for Steve Pearce when he went on the disabled list with a partial right calf tear on May 30. Not only had he found his footing at the plate, but circumstances were so that Pearce was finally getting the opportunity to start on a fairly regular basis.

But all that momentum Pearce was building vanished with the calf injury, and since returning from the DL on July 22, he has not come close to regaining the consistent and fluid swing that had been behind his May surge. Entering Wednesday, Pearce had tallied only three hits (all singles) in 31 at-bats since returning to the club.

"When I got back, my swing still wasn't all there yet," Pearce said. "I just felt in a mechanical slump. I was trying to create stuff that wasn't there, and I was trying to do too much. I was out of whack. Right now, I'm just trying to find some rhythm and timing at the plate, that's all. I need to be more under control."

Pearce has worked specifically to correct a few timing issues with his swing during pregame work in San Francisco. He earned a rare start at third base Wednesday. It was only Pearce's fifth start since being back.

Recent offensive surges by Garrett Jones and Brandon Wood haven't left much opportunity for manager Clint Hurdle to get Pearce into the lineup much more often than that. And the starts will continue to be sporadic if Pearce can't find a way to break through this slump.

"I understand where at-bats can help, but I also understand when mechanics aren't in lock," Hurdle said Wednesday. "I think he needs to revisit squaring balls up. He seems to get a little big with his swing. His timing has just been off. He's almost trying to ambush pitches and just isn't getting good reads.

"He'll get some at-bats today and we'll see where we can take those."

Shoulder surgery ends Hart's season

SAN FRANCISCO -- Kevin Hart underwent arthroscopic surgery Tuesday, officially ending any chance of the right-hander returning to the mound before the end of the 2011 season.

The procedure was a follow-up to the season-ending shoulder surgery Hart had to repair a torn labrum in May 2010. At the time, the Pirates were optimistic that Hart could be recovered in time to make an impact on this year's Major League club. Hart did pitch off the mound a little this spring but has since suffered numerous setbacks.

Hart hit a plateau in his progress in June and had been limited to rest and rehab since. A recent visit to orthopedist James Andrews prompted Hart to undergo this latest procedure.

"Obviously, it's been a long and difficult process for Kevin," general manager Neal Huntington said. "Sometimes the surgeries go sparkling well and sometimes they don't. This was one of those that, for whatever reason, didn't take as everyone had hoped. Dr. Andrews felt it was best to go in there and do some clean-up."

Hart is expected to begin a rehabilitation program immediately, with the goal being that he will be ready for Spring Training in 2012.

Since being acquired in a 2009 Trade Deadline deal with the Cubs, Hart has appeared in only 10 games with the Pirates. He went 1-8 with a 6.92 ERA in those 10 outings.

Ohlendorf's status remains on hold

SAN FRANCISCO -- General manager Neal Huntington said the club will not make an announcement regarding Ross Ohlendorf's next move for a few more days.

After throwing 102 pitches in a rehab start for Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday, Ohlendorf would be unable to pitch again for another four days. That leaves the Pirates no sense of urgency when it comes to making a roster move.

There still appear to be three options for Ohlendorf, who has been on the disabled list since April 9 with a right shoulder strain. He could rejoin the Pirates' rotation or be sent to the big league bullpen, and with an option remaining, Ohlendorf could also come off the DL and stay in Triple-A, where he could pitch in Indianapolis' rotation.

If the Pirates go with the latter option, Ohlendorf would likely pitch next for Indianapolis on Sunday.

"We've got to have a few conversations and get some thoughts from some different perspectives and consider the best move for us and for him," said Huntington, who added that Ohlendorf's outing Tuesday showed some very good signs as well as some signs that there are still things to work on.

Ohlendorf gave up four runs on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings.

Sore hand keeps Lee out of Bucs' lineup

SAN FRANCISCO -- Derrek Lee was back on the bench Wednesday, unable to start the Pirates' series finale against the Giants due to soreness in his left hand.

The hand injury, which Lee sustained when he was hit by a pitch on Aug. 3, kept the first baseman out for four straight games. He returned to the lineup Monday and played again Tuesday before notifying the training staff Wednesday morning that his hand was too sore to handle another day on the field.

General manager Neal Huntington said the club is "a long ways away" from considering disabled-list time for Lee, who was acquired from the Orioles on July 30. That said, there is also no timetable for how long the Pirates expect this discomfort in Lee's hand to linger.

"He's got a bad bruise in there," Huntington said. "He's got some soreness. He's a veteran. He knows what he can work through and what he can't. We certainly don't want to put him in harm's way. What he can tolerate, what he can do, he knows. We have to make sure we respect that."

Lee, who had an MRI done on his hand last weekend, is not currently scheduled to have any additional tests.

Bucs bits

• Outfielder Jose Tabata (left quad strain) went 1-for-4 with a double and run scored in his fourth rehab appearance with Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday. Manager Clint Hurdle said that there was inconsistency in the mechanics of Tabata's swing after his first at-bat, adding, "We've got work to do there."

• Left-hander Aaron Thompson has been promoted from Double-A Altoona to Indianapolis. In 28 games with Altoona, Thompson posted a 5.16 ERA. He struck out 51 and walked 20 in 83 2/3 innings. Thompson began the year as a starter but has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen since June.

• Dominican Summer League outfielder Raul Fortunato carried a 35-game hitting streak into Wednesday's DSL game. No one in Minor League Baseball has had a longer hitting streak this season. There have been only three longer ones in the Minors since the beginning of the 2005 season.

• Right-handed reliever Evan Meek (right shoulder tendinitis) is scheduled to throw batting practice in Bradenton, Fla., on Wednesday. Meek continues to strengthen his arm in advance of heading out on a Minor League rehab assignment.

• Pitching prospect Rudy Owens has been placed on the Triple-A disabled list due to left shoulder soreness and fatigue. The Pirates will re-evaluate Owens on a daily basis to determine how long he might be sidelined. In 21 Triple-A starts this year, Owens is 9-7 with a 5.05 ERA. He has walked 32 and struck out 71 in 112 1/3 innings.