Pirates notebook: Tabata takes 'hard' road back to lineup

| Sunday, March 3, 2013, 5:54 p.m.

BRADENTON, Fla. — “Just wait.”

That was Jose Tabata's advice, delivered in a soft voice but with palpably firm intentions, after he had just put on a nice little show in the Pirates' 8-6 victory over the Houston Astros on Sunday at McKechnie Field.

The box score won't show it. All that's there is 1 for 3, a double, couple RBI.

But rewind to the second inning, bases loaded, two outs. The two batters in front of him had walked, so he took a couple pitches, then lasered a two-run double into center.

“I saw the pitch,” Tabata recalled. “I was swinging hard.”

The next man, Clint Barmes, bounced to short. Should have ended the inning, but an errant throw skipped a few feet away from first baseman Brett Wallace.

Tabata scored. From second.

The manager noticed.

“It's what we want our guys with speed to do, to break on balls like that,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “That one didn't get away too far. Good read by Jose.”

An inning later, Tabata held a Houston runner at third with a potent, perfectly aligned throw from left field. So perfect that third baseman Pedro Alvarez was right there to cut it off.

To add it up, then, Tabata hit the ball hard, ran hard and threw hard.

Which is to say, he looked a little like his old self.

“I'm feeling very good, much lighter, much stronger,” Tabata said. “I worked very hard this winter, and I want to show everybody I can play. I will show that.”

For now, Travis Snider looks like the starting right fielder, but Tabata could change that. He's off to a 4-for-13 start, and all four hits — a home run and three doubles — have gone for extra bases.

“Jose's body is live again. It's looking really good,” Hurdle said. “At the plate, on the bases, in the outfield, everything he's doing just looks fresher, cleaner, more powerful.”

Martin gets wish

Russell Martin's request for more time to mend his sore right shoulder was approved by Hurdle, who Saturday had stated Martin would be behind the plate Sunday.

Instead, Martin did some extra throwing from 60 feet and pronounced the shoulder as “getting stretched out.”

“We decided to ramp it down, not get overly aggressive,” Hurdle explained.

Of the statement Saturday, Hurdle added, “That was probably me, hoping.”

Martin is expected to be the designated hitter Monday and catch later in the week, according to Hurdle.

Many Classic farewells

A.J. Burnett's start Monday against Philadelphia will be followed by Wandy Rodriguez in relief. It will be Rodriguez's last start before leaving to pitch for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.

Pitchers Jason Grilli (Italy) and Jameson Taillon (Canada) left Sunday.

Other recoveries

Jeff Karstens (shoulder) will pitch his live batting practice Tuesday. He described himself as feeling “great.”

Ali Solis, expected to be Mexico's starting catcher in the Classic, withdrew from the tournament because of back spasms.

Dejan Kovacevic is a sports columnist for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dkovacevic@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Dejan_Kovacevic.

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