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Tabata outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis

| Tuesday, June 24, 2014, 2:18 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata watches action from the dugout during a game against the Brewers on Thursday, April 17, 2014, at PNC Park.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Once hailed as a cornerstone of the Pirates' future, outfielder Jose Tabata on Tuesday was outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis.

Tabata was moved to clear a spot on the active roster for second baseman Neil Walker, who was activated from the disabled list. Walker was in the lineup Tuesday against Tamps Bay.

Tabata, 25, cleared irrevocable outright waivers without being claimed and no longer is on the 40-man roster.

Gregory Polanco's arrival June 10 created a surplus of outfielders, pushing Tabata and Travis Snider into bench roles. Utilityman Josh Harrison, who like Tabata is a right-handed batter, also can play the corner outfield spots.

“The depth we have, the way it played out, this was strictly the best baseball move we could make to be the most competitive team we can be,” manager Clint Hurdle said.

As a player with between three and five years of big league service time, Tabata could have declined the assignment. During a meeting with Hurdle early Tuesday afternoon, Tabata chose to go to Indy.

“He was willing and able,” Hurdle said. “He knows he needs to play. He wants to play. I told him this is a challenge. He's been a helpful player, and he performed his role in a very professional manner. This is an opportunity to get more regular reps, more at-bats.”

In 62 games this season, Tabata hit .289 with a .717 on-base plus slugging percentage. He had no home runs and one stolen base.

“He's at an age where his future is still in front of him,” Hurdle said. “He's got to make some choices. We've encouraged him to go play, stay hungry and get things done.”

Hurdle said he believes Tabata still has a future with the Pirates.

“Sure,” Hurdle said. “If we lost an outfielder today, definitely.”

Tabata is making $3 million this season. In August 2011, he signed a six-year, $15.5 million contract. The deal includes team options for 2017-19 or a single $250,000 buyout.

After demoting Tabata, the Pirates are paying $11.5 million this year for players no longer on the 40-man roster. That includes $8.5 million for pitcher Wandy Rodriguez, who was released one month ago.

During spring training, the Pirates let other teams know Tabata was available in a trade. However, they found not takers.

Tabata has been plagued by injuries, inconsistency and off-field problems throughout his career.

While in the New York Yankees' minor league system, he stormed out of a ballpark during a game after striking out. He was traded to the Pirates in July 2008 as part of a five-player deal that sent Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to New York.

During spring training in 2009, Tabata's wife was arrested on kidnapping charges. She was convicted and they eventually divorced.

Tabata, frequently bothered by hamstring injuries, never has played in more than 106 games in a season.

“It's taken years for him to work through some of those challenges off the field,” Hurdle said. “He's had to catch up to the game again.”

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

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