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Notes: Rockies release Freeman

Rox Notes: Club releases Freeman

DENVER -- The Rockies announced Friday that they have released center fielder Choo Freeman, a onetime high draft pick and top prospect.

Freeman, 27, was selected 36th overall in the 1998 First-Year Player Draft and was rated the Rockies' top prospect by Baseball America magazine in 2000. But he didn't spend his first full season in the Majors until 2006. He has a .225 batting average with three home runs and 29 RBIs in 151 Major League games.

Freeman is now free to sign with any club.

Even with the move, the Rockies are bursting with center-field candidates. The front runner is Willy Taveras, acquired from the Astros for his speed. Cory Sullivan, who started much of last season, and a pair of players that bounced between the Rockies and Triple-A Colorado Springs, Ryan Spilborghs and Jeff Salazar, also are in the competition for starts, playing time and roster spots.

The Rockies also are soon expected to officially add former Tiger Alexis Gomez to the mix.

Numbers game: Three Rockies will be changing their jersey numbers in 2007.

Right-handed pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim returns to 49. He went to 48 last season in deference to the more-experienced pitcher, Jose Mesa, who is now with the Tigers. Sullivan will switch from 31 to 18, and newly acquired pitcher Rodrigo Lopez will wear Sullivan's old number. Newly acquired right-hander Jason Hirsh assumes No. 48.

Second baseman Kazuo Matsui will wear 7, which he wore while achieving stardom in Japan. After coming to the U.S., his preferred number hasn't been available so he has worn digits that added up to seven -- 25 with the Mets 2004-06 and 16 with the Rockies after arriving in a trade last season.

Other number assignments are 3 for Taveras, 35 for pitcher Taylor Buchholz, 32 for pitcher LaTroy Hawkins, 50 for pitcher Brian Lawrence and 4 for catcher Javy Lopez.

Thomas Harding 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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