Jose Tabata has been the talk of the Pittsburgh Pirates' spring training camp.
The right fielder fell out of favor last season and eventually lost his starting job in the first year of a six-year, $15 million contact. He wound up spending six weeks at Class AAA Indianapolis in the middle of the season. Over 103 major league games, Tabata hit .243 with three home runs and 16 RBI.
While Tabata was in the minor leagues, the Pirates acquired another right fielder, Travis Snider, in a trade with Toronto. Pittsburgh added a third right fielder, Jerry Sands, in a December deal that sent closer Joel Hanrahan to Boston.
However, Tabata looks like a man determine to win his job back following an offseason in which he worked with a trainer in Miami and lost nearly 20 pounds.
"I'm feeling very good, much lighter, much stronger," Tabata said. "I worked very hard this winter, and I want to show everybody I can play. I will show that."
Tabata was 5-for-16 in exhibition games through March 7 for a .313 average. All five of his hits had gone for extra bases -- four doubles and one home run.
That's a good step forward for a hitter who had a paltry .348 slugging percentage in 374 plate appearances last season.
Snider, considered the favorite to be the starting right fielder coming into the spring, started off 5-for-18 (.278) with two doubles. Sands was 3-for-15 (.200) with no extra-base hits.
While Pirates manager Clint Hurdle wasn't ready to say Tabata is his right fielder, he was impressed with the way the 24-year-old was bouncing back from an awful season.
"Jose's body is alive again. It's looking really good," Hurdle said. "At the plate, on the bases, in the outfield, everything he's doing just looks fresher, cleaner, more powerful."