PITTSBURGH -- Less than 24 hours after allocating a Major League Baseball record $17 million in signing bonuses to players taken in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, owner Bob Nutting labeled the occasion a "tremendous day" for the organization.
Led by an $8 million signing bonus for No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole and a $5 million bonus for second-rounder Josh Bell, the Pirates continue to reaffirm their pledge to be among baseball's most aggressive clubs in the First-Year Player Draft. In the four years that the organization's current front office regime has been in place, the Pirates have spent approximately $47.7 million on the Draft.
That four-year figure is easily tops among all 30 clubs, and it doesn't include the increased resources also devoted to signing international players.
"What we've done is exactly what we said we're going to do -- we're going to take advantage of every single opportunity we can to return this team to championship quality," Nutting said. "We need to bring talent into the organization. There is no substitute for high-end talent."
Nutting would not comment on whether the Draft and Trade Deadline expenditures -- which total close to $22 million -- put the Pirates into deficit spending. He did note that the ability to allocate so much money to the Draft was not "directly dependent" on the increased revenue from an attendance boost at PNC Park this year.
The Pirates ended up signing 24 of 50 players the club drafted. Cole and Bell, though, are considered to be the jewels of the class, which is why the Pirates were willing to spend well over slot to secure both before Tuesday's 12:01 a.m. ET signing deadline.
"I believe we have two impact players that are going to be able to affect the Pittsburgh Pirates here at PNC Park," Nutting said. "I think you have at least two players out of this Draft that are going to be able to be impact Major League players."
Pirates welcome Tabata back as leadoff man
PITTSBURGH -- After weeks of constructing a lineup without an ideal fit for the leadoff spot, manager Clint Hurdle penciled Jose Tabata's name into the slot on Tuesday for the first time since June 26. Tabata, who suffered a left quadriceps strain in that June game against Boston, was activated from the disabled list prior to Tuesday's game against St. Louis.
Tabata appeared in nine games during a rehab stint with Triple-A Indianapolis. That followed the four games he played in Class A ball. The outfielder had 11 hits in 33 Triple-A at-bats and, just as importantly, showed no mobility issues or hesitation running as he wrapped up his time in the Minors.
The Pirates put Tabata through some final tests on Monday before making the decision to activate him.
"It's been a long time since I've seen a Major League ball," Tabata said on Monday. "I feel nervous a little bit because I want to do a good job. But at the same time, I don't want to put pressure on me. I [have] come back here and I'll try to do my same job."
Tabata played left field on Tuesday, though the Pirates are keeping open the option of also giving him some time in right. Tabata played five games in right field while in Indianapolis. His defensive placement will depend on how Hurdle uses his other outfielders.
Upon sustaining the quad injury, Tabata was hitting .265 with 39 runs scored and 14 stolen bases in 71 games. He batted leadoff in 40 of those games and hit .292 from the top spot.
"He's one of the best young hitters I've seen to be able to make in-game adjustments and handle breaking balls," Hurdle said. "Hopefully he'll settle down and just go out and play. He wants to be a part of what's going on. I do think he's a nice player that could be a really good player that we need as we move forward."
Hurdle to monitor youth with crowded outfield
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates' outfield got a little more crowded on Tuesday, with the return of Jose Tabata off the disabled list. And that outfield could be even more jammed within days, as Alex Presley should be nearing the end of his own Minor League rehab assignment.
This all leaves manager Clint Hurdle with the tough task of divvying up playing time. And in doing so, he'll weigh the need to evaluate younger players against any desire to give established veterans an ample number of at-bats. Expect the former to prevail over the latter.
This means that starts could be limited for Ryan Ludwick, who was acquired at the Trade Deadline in the team's effort to boost its outfield depth, and Matt Diaz. Xavier Paul's starts will likely decrease as well, as Presley, Tabata and Andrew McCutchen are expected to get the bulk of the playing time.
"I think we've always got to keep the focus of what's best for the organization moving forward," Hurdle said. "That's got to be tantamount and that's got to be prioritized."
Hurdle added that the outfield makeup will allow him to rest players -- specifically McCutchen -- who have carried a heavy workload already this year. He will continue to mix and match based on pitching matchups.
"It's going to make our bench stronger," Hurdle said. "It will give us more versatility and flexibility. I don't see a problem with it. I think it will actually work to be a strength."
Center fielder Andrew McCutchen entered Tuesday's game 2-for-17 in four games since he reached base five times last Wednesday. The dip in production prompted McCutchen to spend some time Tuesday afternoon rethinking his mental approach and simplifying his physical one. Manager Clint Hurdle noted that he'd like to see McCutchen focus on keeping his swing from getting too big, even if it means pulling back on some power and getting on base via singles for now. However, McCutchen belted a three-run homer, his 17th of the season, in the third inning of Tuesday's game against the Cardinals.
Right-hander Evan Meek (right shoulder tendinitis) is scheduled to pitch in a simulated game on Thursday in Florida. He will throw 15-25 pitches in the outing. If all goes well with that, Meek will begin his rehab assignment with a one-inning appearance for Class A Advanced Bradenton on Sunday.
Left-hander Jeff Locke pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings for Indianapolis in his Triple-A debut on Monday. Locke allowed four hits and did not walk a batter. He struck out six.
Stetson Allie, the Pirates' second-round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, was among a group of State College Spikes players in attendance at PNC Park on Monday. The short-season club is off again on Tuesday as part of a two-day All-Star break.
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.