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Tabata excels in leadoff spot

ST. LOUIS - Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he started to think about making Jose Tabata the leadoff hitter well before the first game of spring training.

Hurdle had watched video and talked to people both within and outside the organization, and one of the things he kept hearing was of Tabata's ability to hit a breaking ball.

"Not that that makes you a good leadoff hitter, but it just shows discipline -- it shows a kid that stays back and reads pitches," Hurdle said. "He takes long looks. He's not interested in just going up there and firing early.

"There are times when you'll see him ambush the first pitch of the game. But I thought the discipline was at a place where we could experiment with it in spring, see what kind of results we got from it."

The results were good enough that Hurdle has stuck with Tabata, and in the first three games, the left fielder went 5 for 11 with two walks, a .538 on-base percentage, one stolen base and five runs scored. In 36 career games as a leadoff man going into last night, he was 40 for 148 (.270) with 13 walks, eight stolen bases and 24 runs scored.

"It was just something I looked at during the winter to try to find a way to score more runs," Hurdle said. "That's all. It's not trying to do something that's crazy, but so many people, as soon as I talked about it, I started getting all these responses about, 'Why would you move (Andrew) McCutchen?' We were last in runs scored (in 2010). I mean, why not• What have we got to lose?"

Tabata said he's excited to be able to do his job and help the team take two out of three from the host Cubs to open the season.

"I need more focus to take more pitches, because my team has to see what the pitcher's throwing, if he has a good changeup or whatever he's throwing," Tabata said.

Quotable

"I would encourage him to be very safe with him and make sure he has ample time for rest. Those things can linger. You would hate to see that happen. Horizontal position, I understand, is the best. Completely laying down."

Clint Hurdle

Pirates manager, when asked about the Cardinals' Matt Holliday, who is day-to-day after undergoing an emergency appendectomy Friday.

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