The Phillies released outfielder John Bowker to allow him to pursue an opportunity with a professional team in Japan, the club announced Tuesday.

Bowker, 28, played 31 Major League games with the Phils and Pirates in 2011, batting .133 with two RBIs. He spent most of the year with Triple-A Indianapolis in Pittsburgh's Minor League system, hitting .306 with 15 home runs in 106 games.

A third-round pick by the Giants in the 2004 Draft, Bowker batted .255 and hit 10 home runs in 111 games with San Francisco in 2008.

Bowker struggled at the plate in the Majors in 2009, was traded to the Pirates in July 2010 as part of the deal for lefty reliever Javier Lopez and was acquired by the Phillies on Aug. 29, 2011.

In eight Minor League seasons, Bowker is a career .303/.367/.498 hitter with 104 home runs and 464 RBIs.

By releasing Bowker, the Phils now have 39 players on their 40-man roster.