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Tabata's changed since July 3 demotion

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Friday, Aug. 24, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

SAN DIEGO — For the first time in a long time, Jose Tabata is at peace with himself on the field. Perhaps that will allow him to finally fully tap his potential.

“I'm a little different than I was before,” Tabata said the other day, speaking in a quiet voice, pausing to think before each answer.

“I'm more relaxed. I'm more focused,” he said. “When I went down (to the minors), I said to myself, ‘Oh, wow.' Now that I'm back, I know that I have to appreciate this opportunity.”

On July 3, the Pirates demoted Tabata to Triple-A. He was making meager contact at the plate, not running out plays, letting fly balls drop in front of him. Tabata stunk it up even worse in Indy.

In late July, Indy broadcaster Will Flemming called Tabata's effort “appalling” and charged that he had cost the Indians wins. The Pirates front office thrust a copy of those comments at Tabata and challenged him to do better.

“At the beginning, yes, I was very frustrated,” Tabata said. “I didn't want to be there. Then, I realized that if I wanted to be in the big leagues again, I had to do my job. I had to start playing like I used to, playing hard all the time.”

Tabata admits he didn't play all out at times last season, especially after he returned from a strained quad injury. But he bristled at those who accused him of loafing.

“People talk, but they don't know,” he said. “I didn't feel all the way healthy. I was scared because I didn't want to go on the DL. Now when people talk, I don't care. I know how I feel, and I know what I can do. Now I'm healthy, so I can play hard all the time.”

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