Tabata demoted to minors
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Last season, the Pirates committed to investing $15 million in outfielder Jose Tabata. Tuesday, they sent him to the minor leagues.
The Pirates optioned the struggling Tabata to Class AAA Indianapolis in hopes he can break free from his struggles this season. Tabata hit .230 with a .295 on-base percentage this season. They recalled outfielder Gorkys Hernandez to take his place.
"We're in a competitive mode up here," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He wasn't playing to his expectations."
The Pirates expected Tabata to be a player who could hit for average and bring dangerous speed to the basepaths. But, in 72 games this season, he was caught stealing nine times in 17 attempts and had 43 strikeouts and 58 hits.
He missed time last season with leg and wrist injuries. He also experienced leg cramps in May that he said often hampered his ability to run the bases and chase balls in the outfield.
"He's not a lazy player," Hurdle said, adding that Tabata is healthy. "I just think there's some confusion going on right there.
"I think sometimes, we've just got too much going on upstairs. ... When there's too much noise and there's too much clutter mentally, it can confuse a player."
Tabata, 23, was acquired in a trade with the New York Yankees that also brought pitchers Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen and Ross Ohlendorf to the Pirates for outfielder/first baseman Xavier Nady and pitcher Damaso Marte. He made his major league debut with the Pirates in 2010 and hit .284 with a .348 on-base percentage his first two seasons.
Hernandez made his major league debut in May and had two hits in 10 at-bats with two RBIs and a run. He hit .268 with 11 doubles, 2 triples, 2 home runs and 25 RBIs in 64 games with Class AAA Indianapolis. He also had 13 stolen bases.
"This time is really different from the first time," Hernandez said. "But now I have a second opportunity to prove it here, so that's why I want to come here and do my best for the team."
The Pirates called up Hernandez and not top-tier outfield prospect Starling Marte because the organization does not want to rush Marte's development, Hurdle said.
Marte is hitting .291 with a .349 on-base percentage in his first season in Class AAA.
"We're well aware of what Starling is doing down there," Hurdle said. "His development is headed in the right direction."
Hurdle said the club has learned from the experiences of some of its younger players who struggled after early promotions; Pedro Alvarez, Alex Presley and Tabata all have been optioned to the minors after struggling with the Pirates.
"You want to give him time," Hurdle said. "And you don't like to see him go through some of the challenges like Pedro had to go through, Presley had to go through and, in this case, what Jose's going through right now."
Alvarez (leg cramps) did not start for a second consecutive game since first experiencing tightness in his right leg in a loss at St. Louis Sunday against the Cardinals.
He originally was in the starting lineup last night, batting sixth, but was scratched about two hours before the first pitch. He delivered a two-run, pinch-hit single in the sixth. Catcher Rod Barajas (bone bruise) made his second start since a home-plate collision with the Phillies' Jimmy Rollins June 25 in Philadelphia.
• The Pirates have agreed to terms with 16-year-old third baseman Julio Delacruz, 16, of the Dominican Republic. Delacruz is the 16th-rated international prospect this year, according to Baseball America.
First Published July 4, 2012 12:00 am