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8/26/2014 12:20 A.M. ET

Tabata returns to Pirates after stint in Minors

Outfielder finds hitting stroke over last three weeks with Triple-A Indianapolis

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates didn't have a place for Jose Tabata shortly after Gregory Polanco was called up in June. But Polanco is going back to Triple-A to refine his swing in the next week, and after two months with Indianapolis, Tabata returned to the Bucs' clubhouse on Monday.

Tabata, 26, has spent parts of five seasons with the Pirates, but he was sent down when the club chose to hang onto Travis Snider as the fourth outfielder following Polanco's debut. Tabata, who had made 464 Major League appearances entering Monday's series opener with the Cardinals, said he stayed in contact with a few Pirates players, including Francisco Liriano and Starling Marte. But until Monday, he had to have those conversations from afar.

"It's difficult because when you play in the big leagues and go [to Triple-A] it's different, it's not the same," Tabata said. "At the same time, you have to be strong. You say, 'I have to get out of here soon, I got to do my job. I got to work more, 100 percent, 200 percent, whatever.' It's frustrating sometimes, but you have to be strong."

Tabata initially struggled after the move, hitting just .190 in his first 17 games. However, in the last three weeks, Tabata hit .362 with an .872 OPS and has had multi-hit games in nine of his last 15 Minor League contests.

Before being sent down, Tabata hit .289 with a .658 OPS and five extra-base hits over the course of 62 games (142 at-bats). Tabata is a career .275 hitter and aided the Bucs in their National League Wild Card playoff berth last season, hitting .320 in his final 28 games of the 2013 regular season.

"Tabata proved himself to be a very good bat off the bench while he was here this year, even last September played a pivotal role in what we were able to do," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He went down, went about his work in a professional manner, he's coming off a very good, solid week -- last two weeks -- swinging the bat."

Barmes comes off DL to resume utility role

PITTSBURGH -- Clint Barmes was activated from the 15-day disabled list on Monday, and will return to his role as the Pirates' utility infielder. Jayson Nix was designated for assignment to clear a roster spot.

Barmes had been sidelined since early July with a strained left groin. He played in seven rehab contests between Double-A and Triple-A within the past two weeks and said he was able to "test the injury the way he needed to test it."

"It's a pretty serious injury, so coming back, it's going to be sore," Barmes said before Monday's series opener against the Cardinals. "It's not a soreness that kept me from doing things I've needed to do. I made a backhand play, which is exactly how it popped, and I did it in a game, and it didn't pop again, it held on."

The Pirates were using a mix of Nix, as well as callups Michael Martinez and Brent Morel to plug into the infield when necessary, but Barmes' return bolsters Clint Hurdle's bench. The Pirates' manager noted that Barmes would likely also get some starts in the near future to spell third baseman Josh Harrison and shortstop Jordy Mercer.

Barmes, a 12-year Major League veteran, entered Monday with a .239 average in 42 games this season -- including 22 starts.

First number, last word

6: The number of times the Pirates and Cardinals will play each other in the next 10 days -- starting with Monday's series opener to closing out their regular-season series. The Cardinals won seven of the first 13 meetings.

"If they choose not to go, they forfeit their salary. Let's be transparent about this before you want to hand them any medals for showing up. ... We're confident with the men here that that's not really an option."
-- Hurdle, on players accepting their assignment to the Minors once they clear waivers.

Worth noting

• Pirates right-hander Charlie Morton will make a rehab start for Double-A Altoona on Thursday and throw five innings or 75 pitches, Hurdle said on Monday. Morton went on the disabled list with a sports hernia in his right hip on Aug. 17. Hurdle said the sinkerballer has already thrown two bullpen sessions, one last Friday and another on Monday.

• Including Monday night's 3-2 loss, the Pirates are 4-3 against the Cardinals at PNC Park this season and are 5-0-1 in their last six home series against St. Louis.

Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.