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12/03/10 12:45 AM EST

D-backs cut ties with four players

PHOENIX -- The D-backs declined to tender contracts to pitchers Blaine Boyer and D.J. Carrasco along with infielder Augie Ojeda and outfielder Ryan Church on Thursday, making them free agents.

As expected, the team did tender contracts to pitcher Joe Saunders, catcher Miguel Montero, shortstop Stephen Drew and second baseman Kelly Johnson. They are now considered signed players for the 2011 season and the D-backs will either work out contracts with them or go to a salary-arbitration hearing with them in February.

Carrasco and Church were both acquired by the D-backs from the Pirates last July in a deal that sent Chris Snyder to Pittsburgh.

Church was less attractive to the D-backs right now because they are already left-handed heavy off the bench, while it came down to money with Carrasco.

Boyer was claimed off waivers by the D-backs in 2009 and was 3-3 with a 3.64 ERA for them in 84 games over two seasons. Command was an issue for Boyer, who possesses excellent stuff.

Ojeda, who will turn 36 later this month, became a fan favorite in Arizona playing in a utility role from 2007-2010. The slick-fielding middle infielder hit .243 in 805 plate appearances for the D-backs. Last season, he got just 92 plate appearances and compiled a .190 batting average.

"We just didn't want to go through the arbitration process," D-backs GM Kevin Towers said. "It doesn't mean that we couldn't sign them back. I would say that it still keeps the door open if we are not able to fill needs externally. We just chose not to arbitrate with the four."

Towers said the hardest decision of the non-tender bunch was Carrasco, though there were no negotiations with him recently.

"He fills kind of multiple roles in the 'pen and he actually threw kind of well for me the last two or three weeks of the season," Towers said. "We didn't like him at what we thought the arbitration number would be. He's probably the one guy that's still on our radar screen."

Drew, Johnson and Montero are all expected to be everyday players in 2011, and the club is looking for Saunders, who was acquired from the Angels last July in the Dan Haren deal, to provide veteran leadership for a young rotation next season.

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