Tabata among 12 sent to Bucs' Minor League camp

Fellow veterans Lombardozzi and Morel also slated to begin year at Triple-A

Tabata among 12 sent to Bucs' Minor League camp

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Veteran infielders Steve Lombardozzi and Brent Morel and outfielder Jose Tabata were among 11 players reassigned to Minor League camp on Friday by the Pirates, who also optioned left-hander Bobby LaFromboise to Triple-A Indianapolis.

Also reassigned to Pirate City were pitchers Deolis Guerra, Brad Lincoln, Charlie Leesman and Josh Wall, infielders Gustavo Nunez and Delbinson Romero, outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and catcher Sebastian Valle.

"We could have very easily kept longer half -- if not three-quarters -- of this group," general manager Neal Huntington said, "but we felt it was in their and the organization's best interest to get them out and get them consistent at-bats and innings to put them in position to help us later."

The moves left 36 players in the big league camp, including three non-roster invitees: left-hander Clayton Richard, righty Blake Wood and catcher Wilkin Castillo.

It also brought some focus to the ongoing battle for the one available bench spot. Presuming Chris Stewart (strained hamstring) is still ticketed to open the season on the disabled list, accommodating Tony Sanchez, the competition has come down to infielders Pedro Florimon and Justin Sellers and outfielders Jaff Decker and Andrew Lambo.

Hernandez's solo home run

Lombardozzi and Hernandez, in particular, fell victim to the Bucs' overall stability, with few jobs available to be contested in camp. The switch-hitting Lombardozzi batted .310 in 20 exhibitions split between infield and outfield play. Hernandez, a former top Pirates prospect who was reacquired on a Minor League deal before Spring Training, hit .407 in 15 games, including eight hits in his final 14 at-bats.

Although the veteran Tabata's performance (.167 in 15 games) didn't compare, he and Hernandez were in the same predicament.

"Jose's swing change is playing up. We wanted to get him out and get him consistent at-bats," Huntington said, "to try to get him off to a good start at Triple-A and build some value to come up and help us.

"Gorkys has had a great camp. It's amazing [considering how long he has been on the scene] that this is still only his age-27 season. He can still play defense with just about anybody. The swing looks shorter. Now's the time to get him consistent at-bats, and see if this swing change will translate into the quality we saw in Spring Training."

Of the remaining non-roster players, Richard offers the most intrigue. He is days away from the clause in his Minor League contract that grants him the right to request his release if not placed on the 40-man roster.

"Our goal is to get Clayton Richard back to the big leagues," Huntington said. "We hope it's going to be with us. We believe it's going to be with us. We're working to get him ready to go, hopefully with us, whether in Pittsburgh or in [Triple-A] Indianapolis."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.