ShareThis Page

Pirates notebook: Tabata's extra work pays off at plate

Rob Biertempfel
| Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013, 7:42 p.m.

Jose Tabata heard it loud and clear last month when Pirates general manager Neal Huntington talked about searching for a right fielder before the non-waiver trade deadline.

“I knew people said the Pirates need a right fielder,” Tabata said. “It made me feel a little bit like I've got to do something. Since the (All-Star break), I've seen the pitches better, I'm looking at video and working with hitting coach (Jay Bell). You see what's happening.”

In 12 games in August, Tabata is batting .371 (13 for 35) with five extra-base hits and five walks. He came off the bench Thursday and had three hits against the St. Louis Cardinals. He smacked a two-run homer in the eighth inning Friday off Arizona Diamondbacks reliever J.J. Putz.

“It's always a good sign when you see Jose drive the ball the other way like that,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It's a gift he's brought to the game since he's been a young player. It's one of the first things I saw from him ... the ability to stay inside the baseball and drive it to right field.”

If Tabata needed any more incentive to produce, he got it last week when the Pirates called up rookie right fielder Andrew Lambo, who had been mashing in the minor leagues.

“I appreciate the opportunity the manager has given me,” Tabata said. “When I see my name in the lineup, I'm putting out 100 percent.”

It helps that Tabata is healthier than he's been in a while. He has a checkered injury history, and earlier this year missed time due to a sore hamstring and a strained oblique.

“I'm working hard with the trainers, especially on my legs,” he said. “It's why I'm here early, every day.”

Planet of the aches

Catcher Michael McKenry is back in the clubhouse for the first time since having season-ending knee surgery July 30.

McKenry will do much of his rehab in Pittsburgh and hopes to travel with the team on its final road trip of the regular season. He expects to be able to put aside his crutches Sept. 11.

“From there, (the rehab) is kind of open-ended,” he said. “You have to be really careful, let it heal and let your body do its work.”

McKenry tore the lateral meniscus in his left knee while sliding into second base July 27 against the Miami Marlins. Although he was in great pain, he did not leave the game and went 4 for 5.

“I have kind of a stupid pain tolerance,” he said. “I couldn't straighten my leg. I could squat, but I couldn't run. It hurt when I swung. The tear was so clean, (the meniscus) lodged underneath my kneecap.”

Closer Jason Grilli (right forearm strain) threw from 90 and 100 feet Saturday. He'll rest Sunday, then be stretched out to 120 feet Monday.

“After that, we'll make a determination if there's a possible slope visit or mound visit,” Hurdle said. “Good progress.”

Right-hander Jeff Karstens (shoulder surgery) was in Pittsburgh to be re-evaluated and will return Sunday to Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. He is in the early stages of a throwing program.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.