03/25/09 7:18 PM ET
Tabata not involved in kidnapping
Sheriff absolves Pirates prospect of blame in wife's crime
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
Tabata's wife, Amalia Tabata Pereira, is being questioned in the abduction of Sandra Cruz-Francisco, a two-month old girl whom Pereira allegedly took from a Plant City, Fla., family on Monday. The infant was found safe on Tuesday in Bradenton, Fla., the same city where the Pirates hold Spring Training.
"Jose was as shocked as the rest of us upon hearing the news and has cooperated fully with law enforcement officials," Coonelly said in the statement. "The Pirates organization will continue to do anything and everything we can to assist and support Jose during this difficult personal time.
"Due to the nature of this ongoing investigation, we cannot discuss any specifics of the case, other than to say that, like Jose, we are extremely thankful the young child was safely returned to her family," Coonelly added. "Our hearts go out to her and her family for the pain they must have endured during the hours that she was missing."
Tabata, 20, did not take participate in workouts or games at Pirate City on Tuesday, one day after being questioned by Manatee County police concerning the kidnapping. Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said that Tabata will remain off the field until the organization and Tabata feel the timing is right.
Through statements released by both Coonelly and Huntington, the Pirates have emphasized not only Tabata's innocence in this matter, but the solid character and work ethic Tabata has shown since joining the organization last summer.
"We continue to be enthusiastic about Jose Tabata as a person, player and member of the Pirates' family," Huntington said. "He is working through an extremely difficult situation, and our focus as an organization is on providing him, and every other player in our system, with the appropriate resources, guidance and support -- on and off the field.
"Jose has been a pleasure for our staff to work with, and we will continue to work closely with him with respect to his development and growth in all areas," Huntington continued. "He is a driven young man who is focused on continuing his professional development while working through this trying time in his personal life."
Tabata, too, issued his own statement regarding the allegations against his wife on Tuesday night.
"I was shocked to be told today that my wife has been arrested for kidnapping," he said. "I am hurt, frustrated and confused by her actions. I have and will continue to cooperate with law enforcement officials in any way that I can. Until I have all of the facts, I cannot comment any further."
Tabata married Pereira, 43, in January 2008, according to Hillsborough County records. Tabata was traded by the Yankees to the Pirates last July in a Trade Deadline deal that netted the Pirates four players in exchange for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte. He was recently listed as the Pirates' third-best prospect, according to Baseball America.
Tabata, who was put on the Pirates' 40-man roster this past offseason, participated in Major League camp this spring. He was optioned to Double-A Altoona on March 18 and has been participating in Minor League camp since.
Pereira appeared in a Manatee County court on Wednesday and will remain in jail on a $750,000 bond. She is going to be moved back to Hillsborough County, the location of the kidnapping, at some point soon.
She has been charged with interference with child custody, kidnapping and false imprisonment, The Associated Press reported.
The baby, Sandra Cruz-Francisco, was taken from her mother, Rosa Sirilo-Francisco, at about 3 p.m. on Monday by a woman her family simply knew as "Janet," Plant City police told the AP.
According to the Tampa Tribune, Sirilo-Francisco took the baby to the Plant City Health Department for a checkup and met Janet, who claimed to be an immigration official and told the mother that immigration officers were waiting at her home to deport her and the baby's father to Mexico. Janet said she would help the parents, but she needed to take the baby.
The Tribune reported that the two women then drove the baby to a farm where the baby's father works, where Janet relayed the same story to him. Soon after, the mother gave Janet the baby. This story has not been confirmed by Plant City police, according to the AP.
Plant City police Capt. Darrell Wilson told the AP on Tuesday evening that Pereira has a criminal record, with theft, arson and fraud convictions. Wilson also said that Pereira has a number of known aliases. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told the AP that they are investigating the matter.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.