Tabata beefs up, hoping for homers


BRADENTON, Fla. — Jose Tabata told me this morning he weighs 212 pounds, which means that — assuming the media guide isn’t lying to me (cough cough) when it says he weighed 210 last year — he packed on all of two pounds this offseason.

Numbers lie. Tabata has bulked up noticeably … and it’s muscle, not fat. “He’s a beast,” one player said, glancing across the clubhouse as Tabata slipped into his workout gear.

“Yeah, I’m bigger,” Tabata said, grinning. “I worked out in the gym every day this winter. I want to be bigger and stronger. This year, my idea is to hit more home runs.”

Ah, yes, home runs. If you recall a story I wrote last March, GM Neal Huntington believes Tabata has more power than he’s shown so far. “Who knows what his ultimate ceiling is,” Huntington said back then. “But we think he’s certainly going to be in double digits — maybe in the 20s, and who knows where he goes from there as he continues to mature and develop.”

As a 22-year-old rookie last season, Tabata hit four homers in 441 plate appearances. In 2,088 plate apps over six seasons in the minors, he hit a total of 29 home runs.

“The power is there,” Tabata said. “I know it is. The ball was jumping off my bat in winter ball.”

In December, Tabata played 14 games for Caribes de Anzoategui in the Venezuelan Winter League. He hit .317 with one homer and a .439 slugging percentage in 57 plate appearances.

“It’s a good feeling,” Tabata said. “But I have to be careful not to let it change my swing. Sometimes, when you want to hit home runs, your swing gets real long. I can’t let that happen.”