ST. LOUIS -- The Pirates' outfield -- as well as the top of the batting order -- just got even faster.
Alex Presley returned to the mix on Thursday, fresh off a disabled-list stint during which he recovered from a left hand contusion. Manager Clint Hurdle wasted no time getting Presley involved, as the outfielder started in left and batted second in the team's series opener against the Cardinals.
With Presley alongside Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata, the Pirates now flaunt one of the quicker outfield trios in the league.
"It's going to be fun," Presley said. "We should cover a lot of ground out there, I think. I'm just excited to be back and play again."
"I've got to believe we've got an outfield with top-shelf range in terms of running down balls," added Hurdle. "If that ball goes up with a hump in it, we've got a chance for it to end up in a glove."
With Presley expected to play left regularly, the Pirates will slide Tabata over to right field. Tabata will remain the Pirates' leadoff hitter, with Presley slotted just behind him. That batting order, Hurdle said, is subject to being flip-flopped, if needed.
Presley hit exclusively from the top spot in the order during his first stop in the Majors this year. He batted .333 and scored 12 runs in those 20 games. But that leadoff role has belonged to Tabata for the majority of the season, and since coming back from his own injury, Tabata is 15-for-38 while hitting first.
"I think it's going to play very well for both of them," Hurdle said. "Right now, Tabata has earned that role. We'll see what kind of offense that provides."
With Presley back and healthy, outfielders Matt Diaz and Xavier Paul are expected to see limited playing time. Ryan Ludwick, the team's other outfielder, will be sidelined for at least two weeks after landing on the disabled list due to back spasms.