When the Pittsburgh Pirates take the field Wednesday night at PNC Park for the second game of their three game series, they will welcome back a familiar face in Jose Tabata.
On the disabled list since the middle of May, Tabata is in the starting lineup batting seventh against left-handed starter John Lannan.
But while Tabata will make his return tonight, the question is should Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle give him a long look in right field?
I say absolutely.
It can’t hurt given the way the combination of Travis Snider, Garrett Jones, Brandon Inge and others have fared this season in right field.
This point in the season the Bucs right fielders have combined to rank dead last in the National League in OPS. Sure Tabata is a part of what could be the only weakness in the Pirates lineup right now, but he should be given every opportunity to earn the job as the Pirates right fielder for the remainder of the season.
Snider has proven that he can thrive in a platoon role, so I am not worried about him. Hurdle will still find ways to get Snider at bats.
If Tabata fails, it should be a sign that Pirates’ general manager Neal Huntington must upgrade the position inn a big way at the trade deadline.
But if Tabata succeeds, he could be a shot in the arm for this team.
Although he has had only 81 at bats on the season, Tabata was hitting a solid .272 before his DL stint. In addition, he showed an ability to drive the ball and hit for a little bit of power. His .744 OPS is higher than that of both Jones (.737) and Snider (.642).
However with Tabata it never has really been about the numbers. He has talent. What has been the problem has been his inability to show a consistent fire and passion for the game.
Tabata should get a long look, especially since the Bucs have been playing so well. It also should be his last long look. If he shows that fire and passion that we saw during spring training and early on this season, the Bucs might get lucky and find an answer in right field.