Jose Tabata was not happy when the Pittsburgh Pirates denied his request to play winter ball in his native Venezuela for a second consecutive offseason. In fact, the outfielder's agent went so far as to tweet that it was the Pirates' decision and not Tabata's.
"It's hard because the fans in my country expect the big-leaguers to play winter ball," Tabata said. "It's tough to tell them no, but I have to do what the Pirates tell me to do."
The Pirates wanted Tabata to work out in anticipation of spring training rather than play winter ball. By the looks of it, it seems like the right decision, as Tabata was noticeably slimmer when he appeared as the team's annual PirateFest in mid-December in Pittsburgh.
Tabata said he didn't know exactly how much weight he had lost.
Tabata has been spending the offseason in Miami, and the workouts seem to be working. Tabata is noticeably slimmer than at the end of last season, though he didn't know exactly how much weight he has lost.
"I feel great," Tabata said. "I feel strong. I'm looking forward to a new year. Put this year behind me and have a good 2013."
It would be hard for Tabata to have a worse season than 2012.
The 24-year-old hit just .243 with three home runs and 16 RBI in 103 games. He was also caught stealing in 12 of his 20 attempts in the first season of a six-year, $15-million contract extension that he signed in August 2011.
The Pirates even banished Tabata to Class AAA Indianapolis for six weeks in the middle of the season. They also traded for Toronto's Travis Snider in late July and installed him as the regular right fielder, though he hit just .250 with one home run in 50 games while bothered by hamstring injuries.
Snider and Tabata will compete for the starting right field job in spring training.
"May the best man win," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.