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Brewers retain Lofgren, release Halama

Brewers retain Lofgren, release Halama

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PHOENIX -- The Brewers found a way to keep one left-hander on Tuesday morning and then parted ways with another.

After swinging a trade with the Indians to keep Rule 5 Draft pick Chuck Lofgren from returning to Cleveland, the Brewers opted to release veteran John Halama, a non-roster invitee who was bidding to return to the Majors for the first time in four years.

In return for Lofgren's rights, the Brewers gave the Indians right-hander Omar Aguilar, a 25-year-old reliever who slipped back a level during a poor 2009 season. Lofgren, meanwhile, was assigned to Milwaukee's Triple-A Nashville affiliate and will report to Minor League camp beginning Wednesday to begin stretching out as a starting pitcher.

That meant the Brewers had no room for Halama, who turned 38 last month, even in the Minor Leagues.

"It's probably a little early in camp, but we think this is better for John," Brewers manager Ken Macha said. "There are some teams that are looking for some left-handers, and perhaps he will get a chance to hook on somewhere else."

Halama signed his Minor League contract with the Brewers early in the offseason -- Nov. 23 -- before the team added a slew of left-handed pitchers. Randy Wolf and Doug Davis signed as starters, Scott Schoeneweis signed a Minor League deal to bid for a bullpen spot and the Brewers added Lofgren via the Rule 5 Draft.

Lofgren was one of 17 players selected during the Major League phase of the Draft in December. The Brewers paid $50,000 for the claim, and per Draft rules they would have had to keep the player on the 25-man roster all season or offer him back to Cleveland for half of the original price.

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The Brewers began the process of offering him back late last week by exposing Lofgren to waivers. Once he cleared, the Brewers and Indians had 72 hours, according to Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin, to work out a trade. Had those efforts come up empty, Cleveland would have been forced to decide whether to take Lofgren back for $25,000 or simply let the Brewers keep him.

Lofgren, 24, is only two years removed from being one of the Indians' top pitching prospects. He went 9-11 with a 4.15 ERA in 25 starts between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus last season, and Cleveland opted not to protect him on the 40-man roster.

He has not allowed a run in four Cactus League appearances for the Brewers. Lofgren was sent outright to Nashville and thus removed from the team's 40-man roster.

Aguilar notched 17 saves in 2008 and finished the year at Double-A Huntsville. That's where he began 2009, but after posting a 7.71 ERA in 23 relief appearances and allowing 36 hits in 25 2/3 innings he was removed from the 40-man roster and sent back to Class A Advanced Brevard County to finish the season. He turns 26 on March 31.

With Lofgren and Halama out of the mix, if the Brewers keep a second left-hander in the bullpen it would be either Schoeneweis, Chris Narveson or Manny Parra. Narveson and Parra are bidding for the starting rotation first.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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