ST. LOUIS -- If there seemed to be something odd about the idea of veteran Jose Tabata being available as a replacement when young rookie outfielder Starling Marte had to go on the disabled list, this was it:
Despite the more vast Major League experience of Tabata -- he appeared in his 266th game Sunday -- he is all of two months Marte's senior.
Tabata returned from Indianapolis only seven weeks older, but immeasurably wiser. He'd been optioned to Triple-A on July 3, following weeks of questions about his on-field focus, and predictably did not take the demotion well.
"It was difficult, sure. But you have to be strong," Tabata said. "Everything's different down there. I feel good. The past is the past. I want to forget the past. I'm here today."
Tabata wound up hitting .297 in 41 games with the Indians, making consistent contact (only 20 strikeouts in 158 at-bats), albeit the power was still missing (nine doubles being his only extra-base hits).
But the bulk of that production followed his adjustment period, convincing observers he was ready to pick up, and dial up, his big league career.
"The reports on him have been very positive," said manager Clint Hurdle. "That's the reason he's here. The game, the energy, the ability -- they've all come back to a very good place for him. Everyone's been very encouraged by what they've seen from him on the field, in the batter's box, on the bases."