MILWAUKEE -- Six days after leaving a game with discomfort in his left leg, Jose Tabata continues to deal with the issue on a daily basis. The outfielder, who has become a catalyst atop the lineup, hasn't missed a game -- but neither has manager Clint Hurdle missed any chances to hold his breath when Tabata is on the move. "The tightness kinda comes and goes -- and is not gone. We're keeping a pulse on it, inning by inning," Hurdle said. "We're trying to get the kid to play through an injury." The Pirates don't have a spare experienced outfielder. Since the release of Nate McLouth, the fourth outfielder is Gorkys Hernandez, a defensive specialist whose big league experience consists of 10 plate appearances. Beyond the mere limitations of the roster, Tabata can be a game-changing talent, as he showed in Friday night's opener of the series at Miller Park.
In the 8-2 win over the Brewers, Tabata went 2-for-3 with a stolen base and a three-run double. "I thought he ramped his game up from the start," Hurdle said of the 23-year-old. "He adds another dynamic when he plays at that level." Tabata has his critics. But those who have recently questioned his effort on the field are probably unaware that he has been consciously trying to avoid aggravating the left-leg injury. Hurdle's own curiosity was recently raised when Tabata took six seconds to run to first on a routine grounder. "That tweaks me a little bit," the manager said. "But he told me that coming out of the box it felt a little tight, and he didn't want to push it. He said, 'You asked me to give you what I can, when I can give it. I promise you that's what I'll do.' He's being challenged." Since Tabata moved into the leadoff spot on May 3, the Pirates are 16-11 heading into Saturday night's game against the Brewers.