Day 3: Tampa
Sorry I’m a little later with the entry today, but there was night baseball at George M. Steinbrenner Field between the Yankees and Pirates. Filling in for the esteemed Jen Langosch on the Pirates beat (I’ll see them tomorrow and Friday to boot. Go Buccos!), I wrote a story about Xavier Nady’s reunion with his old team on the Major League side of things. But lets move on to what we’re all here for, right? Today’s Prospect Impression.
I really wanted to be able to write about Virgil Vasquez and his quest to be a serious contender for the No. 5 starter spot. While one start does not a competition end, he can’t really be the focus here after giving up six runs on seven hits over 2 1/3 IP. I saw VV pitch in the 2006 Arizona Fall League championship game and he’s always been a good dude to talk to, so here’s hoping he gets back on the horse — assuming he’s given the chance to — and shows the club how he can bounce back from a bad outing.
Since I was writing about Nady, though, I thought it only fitting to write about the guy here for the Pirates who came to Pittsburgh on the other end of that deal. I’m talking, of course, about Jose Tabata. The young outfielder’s had a real nice spring, hitting .391 through 23 at-bats. It’s a big reason why he’s still in big-league camp and made this trip. He didn’t seem fazed by coming back to Yankee-land, though things didn’t go so well for him here, particularly at the end. Using his ever-improving English — he was apologetic at the end, but I always make a point of giving kudos to a guy for trying (I couldn’t conduct an interview in another language, could you?) — he talked about how happy he was to be a part of the Pirates organization and how he felt like it was a family. He also spoke of how he idolized Roberto Clemente, seeing a video of him when he was a kid (not that he’s so old now, mind you). He’s even got a tattoo of Clemente’s picture more or less over his heart. Only seems fitting he should become the Pirates’ right-fielder in the future, a cast-off of sorts from another team (the Pirates got Clemente, you may remember, from the Dodgers in the Rule 5 draft).
Anyway, as for tonight’s performance, Tabata showed a bit of everything. He singled off of C.C. Sabathia in his first at-bat, got balked to second, stole third and scored to make it (briefly) a close 2-1 game. He made a real nice catch up against the right-field wall to snare a Johnny Damon drive in the third. He picked up another hit against Alfredo Aceves in the seventh. He went 2-for-4 overall, making him 11-for-27 this spring, a .407 average for those of you scoring at home. I think Tabata was targeted for Double-A at the start of this spring. It wouldn’t shock me after this to see him go to Triple-A Indianapolis to play in the same outfield as Andrew McCutchen to begin the 2009 regular season.