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12/19/11 2:48 PM EST

Left hand healed, Tabata hits the cage

Outfielder cleared to resume hitting following clean bill of health

PITTSBURGH -- Jose Tabata resumed swinging a bat last week after receiving a clean bill of health from the Pirates' medical staff.

Tabata's season ended in early September because of a fractured bone in his left hand. The 23-year-old outfielder, who was just in Pittsburgh for the club's Caravan and PirateFest events, had that hand re-examined while he was in town.

As soon as he was told that his hand had properly healed, Tabata went into the indoor batting cage and started swinging.

"I was a little nervous because I wanted to feel good," Tabata said. "Now, I am feeling pretty good. I'm ready to roll."

Health will continue to be key for Tabata, who also missed time in 2011 because of hamstring tightness and a quadriceps strain. Altogether, the injuries limited Tabata to 91 games in his first full season in the big leagues.

Tabata, who is tabbed to be the club's starting right fielder in 2012, is coming off a season in which his production waned. After batting .299 in his rookie season, Tabata hit .266 with 18 doubles, four homers, 53 runs scored and 16 stolen bases in 2011.

"I felt like I got better," Tabata said of his sophomore season. "But I want to keep getting more consistent."

Consistency is a fair goal, though the Pirates are also hopeful that Tabata will continue to develop more power. Manager Clint Hurdle has said, too, that he intends to push Tabata to be more aggressive on the basepaths next season.

Tabata, who is residing in Miami this offseason, will not join a winter ball team for a short late-season stint, as he did last year. Spending time with his family and making sure he is fully healed for Spring Training took precedence over returning to Venezuela to play in front of his fans there.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.