PITTSBURGH (AP) -The Pirates gave up on infielder Jose Castillo, releasing their former starting second baseman Thursday after selecting right-handed reliever Evan Meek in the winter meetings draft.
The 26-year-old Castillo, Pittsburgh's starting second baseman from 2004-06, was demoted to a utility infielder role last season and was used infrequently by former manager Jim Tracy.
Castillo made $1.9 million this season and, because he is eligible for arbitration, was likely to earn more next year. Now that he's on the open market, Castillo could be an affordable pickup for a team seeking an experienced infielder with pop and a capable glove.
He batted .256 in four seasons with Pittsburgh, hitting .244 in 221 at-bats this season. He hit .253 with 14 homers and 65 RBIs in 2006, although he did not homer after Aug. 14, and had 11 homers and 53 RBIs in 101 games in 2005.
Castillo homered in five consecutive games from May 26-31, 2006. Three of those games came during a four-game series against Milwaukee in which he had four homers and 14 RBIs.
The Pirates tried to trade Castillo during the winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn., that wrapped up Thursday, but could find no teams interested. Castillo requested a trade last season.
Meek was taken with the second pick in the Rule 5 draft. He had a 4.30 ERA in 44 appearances for Tampa Bay's Double-A Montgomery farm club this season.
A hard-thrower who has struggled with his control in the minors, Meek was an 11th-round pick by Minnesota in the amateur draft. He has walked 200 in 288 innings during five minor league seasons.
Meek pitched well in the Arizona Fall League, striking out nine and walking five with an 0.93 ERA in nine games.
The Pirates paid $50,000 for Meek and must keep him on their 25-man roster all season or offer him back to Tampa Bay for $25,000.
Pittsburgh did not lose any players in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft.
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