Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata is in the middle of his best offensive month of the season. After hitting for just a .232 average and .549 OPS in April and a .206 average and .626 OPS in May, Tabata has inched his line up to a .250 average and .705 OPS in June.
Regardless, manager Clint Hurdle told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Karen Price that Tabata could be a candidate for a demotion to Triple-A Indianapolis, and it won't be about the numbers.
"One thing you can bring every day is your attitude and your effort. I demand that, and I think we’ve had some disconnects with that," he said. "I think subconsciously, in Jose’s case, there is a fear of reinjuring himself.
"But it’s like a pitcher worrying about his shoulder. If you’re going to get hurt, you’re going to get hurt. You have to play. We’ve talked about it. The talking part is over. He needs to play. We’ve worked through this about as far as we can. It’s time."
Despite the horrible slumps third baseman Pedro Alvarez has found himself this season, Hurdle has staunchly defended his player, saying "he's giving it everything he's got to work through this."
That makes the manager's words about Tabata all the more telling. Hurdle is willing to accept slumps, but the reality is that even as the outfielder's numbers have improved, he's taken some terrible at-bats in critical spots over the last week and been less than impressive in the field. That's what's unacceptable, and it may soon cost Tabata his big league spot.
And as the Bucs remain in a dogfight with the Reds for the division of lead and a handful of teams for a wildcard spot, that's probably for the best. Pittsburgh needs focus in its lineup and if Tabata is banged up, either physically or psychologically (or both), he could probably use the time down on the farm to get in the right frame of mind to truly help his team.