Pirates notebook: Hurdle's message to Tabata: Start producing
Share with others:
PHILADELPHIA -- The Pirates have lacked production from the leadoff spot this season, and, in one case, manager Clint Hurdle said Thursday, the time has come for an increase.
Outfielder Jose Tabata, who batted first in 34 of the Pirates' 74 games, entered Thursday hitting .226. He batted .160 in his past nine games with a .222 on-base percentage. He also has had trouble at times on his routes to fly balls.
"He either needs to work on it here, or ... the next option is the one we visited with [Alex] Presley earlier, is to send him down and get him some continuous reps," Hurdle said.
Hurdle did not specify when that move might occur, but said it could benefit Tabata.
Tabata has played through pain in his left quadriceps and hip in recent weeks, which Hurdle said might have contributed to the struggles by creating a mental block.
"One thing that you can bring every day is your attitude and your effort, and I demand that," Hurdle said. "We've had some disconnects with that. I think subconsciously in Jose's case, there's a fear of re-injuring himself. It's like a pitcher worrying about his shoulder. If you're going to get hurt, you're going to get hurt. You've got to play. We've talked about it. The talking part of that is over. He needs to play."
Presley, who has started 36 games as the leadoff batter, improved briefly upon his return from the minors, but is hitting .213 in his past 13 games. The Pirates' other leadoff hitters -- Josh Harrison and, before his release, Nate McLouth -- combined to lead off four times with a .225 average and a .268 on-base percentage.
"You look at the numbers for our leadoff hitters, that's not what you need and that's not what they want, either," Hurdle said. "It's tough. It's hard on them. They want to do better."
Drew Sutton batted leadoff in the 5-4 win Thursday against Philadelphia.
"We've given [Tabata and Presley] a number of at-bats to work through this," Hurdle said. "You've got to be able to find your way here and be able to produce as well."
Hurdle said he has watched tape from Tabata's 2010 season, when he hit .299 with a .346 on-base percentage in 441 plate appearances. He went on a tear the first three weeks of '11, then tailed off. Once June arrived, his performance returned, but a leg injury kept him out until mid-August.
"You saw Tabata play as well as he's probably played the first part of last season," Hurdle said. "We've seen him spark the club, we've seen him do well at the top of the lineup, we've seen him run the bases with abandon. We haven't seen that with any consistency this year in any facet."
After going 1 for 3 Thursday, Michael McKenry finished the series against the Phillies with eight hits in 14 at-bats.
Nothing has changed, Hurdle said, but something has clicked.
"I'm so happy for Michael," Hurdle said. "I spent a winter with Michael working with him on his swing. It's not different from what we talked about earlier, but sometimes it clicks. It sure has clicked at the right time for us."
The Pirates scored five runs in the first inning Thursday, the first time they did so on the road since a 14-10 win against the Cincinnati Reds May 27, 2007.
First Published June 29, 2012 12:00 am