PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Outfielder Mike Kingery, scheduled to be the Pittsburgh Pirates' third highest-paid player this season, was given his unconditional release Tuesday.

If another team does not sign Kingery, the Pirates are responsible for his guaranteed $750,000 contract. If he signs elsewhere, his new team would be responsible for only $150,000 of his salary, with the Pirates picking up the rest.

Including the $2.2 million due to shortstop Jay Bell, who was traded last month to Kansas City, the Pirates will pay nearly $3 million _ or about one-quarter of their $12 million payroll _ to players not on their roster.

The Pirates designated the 35-year-old Kingery for assignment last month after they signed shortstop Kevin Elster. But Kingery refused assignment to a minor-league team and was placed on waivers, which he cleared Monday.

``Cam (Bonifay, the Pirates general manager) wrote me that, as everyone knows, the Pirates are going with a youth movement and he just didn't think I fit into their plans,'' Kingery said.

The Pirates signed Kingery to a two-year, $1.5 million contract in December 1995, after he played out his option with the Colorado Rockies. But, after starting the season as the Pirates' center fielder, he batted .246 with three homers and 27 RBIs in 117 games after losing his starting job by late May.

Only two Pirates are scheduled to make more than $1 million next season: outfielder Al Martin ($2.4 million) and Elster ($1.65 million).