Tabata enjoying fresh start with Bucs

Tabata enjoying fresh start

PITTSBURGH -- Outfielder Jose Tabata came to the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 26 as part of a six-player trade that sent Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to the New York Yankees.

You could make the argument that the 20-year-old Tabata was the centerpiece of the trade as far as the Pirates were concerned. Tabata was rated by Baseball America as the No. 2 prospect in the Yankees organization.

Tabata is excited about being part of the Pirates farm system.

"At first, I was shocked, because the Yankees are the only team I have ever been with," Tabata said. "But once I had time to think about it, I got excited, because I knew that the Pirates really wanted me. When I heard that I was traded for two big leaguers it made me feel really good, because that is where I want to be some day."

Tabata struggled in 79 games earlier this season with the Yankees' Double-A Trenton club, batting .248 with three home runs and 36 RBIs. He also battled a left hamstring injury that he was recovering from when Pittsburgh acquired him.

"I was injured last year, so that helped me learn how to deal with being injured," Tabata stated. "But at the same time, it is always frustrating not being able to help your teammates win and to be able to improve your play.

"I got off to a slow start this year, but that was a combination of a lot of reasons, like the colder weather, the higher level of play and few other factors. I felt like in Spring Training that I was going to get off to a good start, but it didn't happen. My coaches kept telling me that it's OK to struggle, because you are 19-years-old and you are at Double-A, but I didn't want to look at it like that."

Tabata also arrived with some baggage. On April 27, Tabata was suspended for leaving the ballpark while a game was still in progress. Frustrated after a strikeout, Tabata slammed his bat and bolted on his teammates.

"I try not to look back too much at what happened," Tabata offered. "I was frustrated, because I wasn't playing well and I'm not used to not playing well. I have always been one of the best players on the field and I didn't feel like I was playing up to the standards I had set for myself. I made a few mistakes, but my time with Trenton was good and I felt like I was really playing my game at the time I got hurt. Plus, there is a lot of pressure being with the Yankees because they demand excellence. That is why they are always one of the best teams in the Major Leagues."

Entering play on Saturday, Tabata had played in 19 games at Double-A Altoona and was hitting .329 for the Curve with two home runs and nine RBIs. He feels he is back on track in his quest to make it to the big leagues.

"I just have to play my game and let the Pirates decide when I am ready," he said. "Of course I would love to be there right now, but so would all of my teammates. I just need to keep getting better, stay healthy and everything will fall into place from there. I have always been the youngest guy on my team, so I guess that means that I am moving quickly, which is good."

George Von Benko is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.