Pirates notebook: Tabata makes plea for peace in Venezuela

Rob Biertempfel
| Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014, 12:45 p.m.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata noticed a few cameras were aimed his way during a break in spring training workouts Saturday morning. Tabata gestured for the photographers to wait a moment and pulled a piece of paper out of his equipment bag.

As the cameras snapped, Tabata unfolded a handmade sign that bore a simple yet powerful plea: Paz en Venezuela.

Peace in Venezuela.

Throughout Tabata's native country, demonstrations against Socialist president Nicolas Maduro have sparked bloody clashes. Violence has erupted in Barcelona, Venezuela, where Tabata has an offseason home and where his parents and sister live year-round. At least nine people have been killed and hundreds more have been injured or arrested over the past few weeks.

“I get scared sometimes because you don't know what's going to happen,” Tabata said. “When I wake up some days, I think, ‘Wow, what's going to happen today in Venezuela?' It's difficult sometimes. Thank God, everybody in my family is good right now.”

Bullpen catcher Heberto Andrade's wife and children stayed in Venezuela when he left for spring training.

“I haven't pulled them out, but I worry about them,” Andrade said. “I tell them not to leave the house. On either side of my house, there are fires. The people who are doing this, they don't care about the people in Venezuela.”

Tabata's wife and daughter stay with him in the United States throughout spring training and the regular season. But they spent this past offseason in Barcelona and sometimes heard gunfire not too far away.

“I was a little scared when I went back,” Tabata said. “When I was out in public, out on the streets, I had to be very careful. I had to watch out all the time. I tell my family, ‘Don't be in the streets. Stay home.' ”

Four Venezuelans in Boston Red Sox camp — Felix Doubront, Jonathan Herrera, Brayan Villarreal and Edward Mujica — sent a message to Maduro on Saturday asking for an end to the violence.

At Miami Marlins camp, pitcher Henderson Alvarez and several of teammates gathered around a Venezuelan flag holding signs that read “Paz.” Tabata, Andrade and several other Pirates planned for a similar display Sunday at Pirate City.

“Everybody — the Dominican guys, the American guys — are asking me (about) what's happening in Venezuela,” Tabata said. “It hurts to see what's happening there because Venezuela is a beautiful country.”

Martin gathers data

Jameson Taillon said it was “a privilege” to throw a bullpen session recently with veteran catcher Russell Martin.

“He's really good at what he does,” Taillon said. “There's a reason he's played for a long time and done so well.”

An eight-year veteran, Martin uses these spring workouts to gather data about Taillon and the other pitchers in camp. That way, he has a point of reference when they pitch in the big leagues.

“I try to see mechanically how he works,” Martin said. “I try to see what his breaking ball's doing, what his fastball's doing, what his changeup's doing. I try to see if those pitches look different coming out of his hand. Deception is a the biggest key for a pitcher. I try to see the quality of (each) pitch. Can he throw it for a strike when he needs to? Can he throw his fastball and changeup off the same plane so they look like the same pitch coming (to the plate)?”

It's a lot of information to gather in a 10- or 15-minute session. Martin does it with every pitcher in camp and files the data in his head — a mental picture rather than a stack of written notes.

“He's just a freak as far as that stuff goes,” Taillon said. “He can catch a guy once and know what to do. He's got really good baseball instincts and lets them take over.”

For more about Taillon's process of building relationships with the catchers during spring training, check out the new webisode of the #BucsNext video series on Monday at triblive.com.

Intrasquad game

Manager Clint Hurdle announced the pitchers for the seven-inning Black-Gold game at noon Tuesday at McKechnie Field. The list includes a few players from minor league camp.

For the Black, Stolmy Pimentel will pitch the first two innings, followed by one inning apiece by Joe Oliver, Jay Jackson, Zack Thornton, Brandon Mann and Matt Benedict. For the Gold, Joely Rodriguez will pitch two innings, followed by Casey Sadler, Jake Brigham, Cody Eppley, Elvin Ramirez and Ryan Beckman.

Hurdle will set the starting lineups Sunday. He has not yet announced the pitchers for the Grapefruit League opener Wednesday against the New York Yankees.

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

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