Manager Clint Hurdle said he spoke with Lee on Saturday night, shortly after the Pirates announced that they had acquired the veteran first baseman from Baltimore for Minor Leaguer Aaron Baker. Though Lee was playing in New York, he told Hurdle he needed to return to Baltimore to take care of some immediate things with his family.
Hurdle said he had no issue with that decision.
"I don't get caught up in the expectations of other people," Hurdle said. "I respect his decision. I don't try to figure all that out and speculate. He'll get here when he's ready to go. He wants to get here sooner rather than later."
Lee will be enthusiastically welcomed when he does arrive. In addition to highlighting Lee's potential to upgrade the Bucs' offense, Pittsburgh players raved about Lee's professionalism and leadership potential.
Matt Diaz knows firsthand what Lee can provide to a team trying to make a push for the playoffs. Lee joined Diaz in Atlanta last August and helped lead the Braves to a Wild Card berth.
"He walked into an Atlanta clubhouse last year with veterans and was the instant go-to guy,' Diaz said. "He is a good player, obviously. He is a great guy off the field. I know a lot of people thought he'd be here today, but knowing what a family guy he is, I had a feeling he probably would not be here today. I'm proud of him for showing up on Monday.
"I'm excited to have him."
Hurdle did not reveal where in the lineup he expects to insert Lee, though Hurdle said he does already have a pretty good idea about his plans. Lee will get the bulk of playing time at first.
"We believe that he has productive baseball left in him," Hurdle said. "The reports that we have been getting are very encouraging. He has been swinging the bat extremely well the last few weeks."
Lee has hit .246 with 12 homers and 41 RBIs in 85 games with Baltimore. His production as of late, though, has been well above that. Since July 8, Lee has batted .309 with 11 extra-base hits and 19 RBIs.
"We thought it was very important to upgrade the offense, and we feel like Derrek Lee, hitting from the right side, veteran presence, that we've given Clint an additional weapon," said president Frank Coonelly, who is with the club in Philadelphia.
Lee is owed about $2.6 million on the one-year, $7.25 million contract he signed with Baltimore last winter. The Pirates will pick up all the money due to Lee on that contract, though the O's are going to be responsible for paying Lee's performance bonuses. Those bonuses are based on plate appearances.
"Pittsburgh is getting a good man, a good person and a guy that's starting to play pretty well," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. "So it's a good move for them and a good move for us. We like the guy we got back. But it's bittersweet for us."