New-look Bucs lineup lasting vs. Royals

New-look Bucs lineup lasting vs. Royals

PITTSBURGH -- When Clint Hurdle falls in love with a lineup, the affair usually doesn't last long. Pittsburgh's manager has not gone longer than two consecutive games with the same batting order, but the current alignment could have a little more shelf life.

The lineup turned in for the first two games against the Royals has dramatic differences from the look for most of the season's first two months -- principally with the Garrett Jones-Pedro Alvarez-Jose Tabata link fourth-through-sixth.

Alvarez and Tabata have both been lowered into lesser-pressure spots from cleanup and leadoff, respectively.

"I'm trying to get Pedro out of the fourth-hole, like taking a little pressure out of a football. Same with Tabata," Hurdle said. "[Tabata] profiles to be a top-of-the-order guy; unfortunately, the numbers haven't played out well."

In 31 games leading off, Tabata hit .217 with only nine walks in 132 plate appearances; he took over as the primary leadoff man with the demotion of Alex Presley, whose recent return from Indianapolis freed him to move elsewhere. The Alvarez clean-up experiment, which began May 5, pretty much went bust, as he batted .140 in 24 games there.

"Let's get [Tabata] out of that spotlight, give him a chance to find his own comfort zone," said Hurdle, who likes the idea of Tabata's speed on the bases in front of Rod Barajas and Clint Barmes, the Nos. 7 and 8 hitters whose bats have warmed. "Now that they're spanking, we can score runs at the bottom [of the order] as well as on top."

The lineup won't survive a third straight day: Left-hander Bruce Chen is slated to start for Kansas City on Sunday, thus Jones figures to shift to right with Matt Hague returning to first.