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08/01/11 7:01 PM ET

Overbay designated as Bucs clear roster space

Ciriaco also optioned to make 25-man spots for Lee, Ludwick

PITTSBURGH -- Brought in this winter to be a big bat in the middle of the lineup, Lyle Overbay's tenure with the Pirates is over prematurely following four months of offensive struggles.

The club designated Overbay for assignment on Monday in order to open up a roster spot for first baseman Derrek Lee, who was acquired in a trade with the Orioles on Saturday. There is a possibility that Overbay could be claimed off waivers by a team that will ask the Pirates to pay a significant portion of the approximately $1.73 million he is still due.

If no one claims Overbay, he will be given his unconditional release.

"He has made a positive impact on this organization that is not seen in the statistics line," general manager Neal Huntington said. "But we felt like we needed to move forward and make a change at that spot. He has been the consummate professional since the day he got here and we wish him nothing but the best in the future."

The Pirates signed Overbay, formerly of the Blue Jays, to a one-year, $5 million contract in December with high expectations of what he would provide in the lineup and on defense. After a shaky start, Overbay did help stabilize the infield defense, but that did not make up for the lack of production on the other end.

Overall, he batted .227 with 17 doubles, eight homers and 37 RBIs in 103 games following a decent showing in Spring Training. He hit just three of those homers at PNC Park, which ended up not playing to Overbay's strengths because of how deep it is to left-center.

While that might have played into Overbay's struggles, it is otherwise tough for the Pirates to figure why exactly things didn't work out for Overbay in Pittsburgh.

"It is a tough question to answer because it wasn't a lack of work, it wasn't a lack of caring, it wasn't a lack of trying," Huntington said. "The shift of leagues for veteran players can sometimes be challenging. Going from turf to natural grass can sometimes challenge a player. But I don't think there is any single answer. Sometimes guys just have bad seasons. This might have been Lyle's bad season."

Manager Clint Hurdle met with Overbay for about 20 minutes on Monday afternoon to let the first baseman know of the organization's decision.

"It was a tough one when good people are involved and you care," Hurdle said. "At the end of the day, you have to deal with the realistic part of the game. You have to confront reality. That's what we've tried to do as an organization is move forward. We were not getting the production we were looking for on either side of the ball. We were looking to improve or upgrade."

The Pirates hope Lee provides that upgrade. He arrived in Pittsburgh on Monday and was immediately slotted into the cleanup spot in the batting order. Lee is coming off a month in which he hit .250 and drove in 19 runs.

He is also returning to a National League Central division in which he spent parts of the last seven seasons.

In a second roster move, the Pirates also optioned infielder Pedro Ciriaco to Triple-A to make room for outfielder Ryan Ludwick to join the 25-man roster. This marked the fourth time this season -- not including Spring Training -- that Ciriaco has been optioned to the Minors.

With Ciriaco gone, the Pirates have Brandon Wood available as a backup middle infielder and Steve Pearce to fill in at the corner infield spots.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.