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New-look Bucs lineup lasting vs. Royals

PITTSBURGH -- When Clint Hurdle falls in love with a lineup, the affair usually doesn't last long. Pittsburgh's manager has not gone longer than two consecutive games with the same batting order, but the current alignment could have a little more shelf life.

The lineup turned in for the first two games against the Royals has dramatic differences from the look for most of the season's first two months -- principally with the Garrett Jones-Pedro Alvarez-Jose Tabata link fourth-through-sixth.

Alvarez and Tabata have both been lowered into lesser-pressure spots from cleanup and leadoff, respectively.

"I'm trying to get Pedro out of the fourth-hole, like taking a little pressure out of a football. Same with Tabata," Hurdle said. "[Tabata] profiles to be a top-of-the-order guy; unfortunately, the numbers haven't played out well."

In 31 games leading off, Tabata hit .217 with only nine walks in 132 plate appearances; he took over as the primary leadoff man with the demotion of Alex Presley, whose recent return from Indianapolis freed him to move elsewhere. The Alvarez clean-up experiment, which began May 5, pretty much went bust, as he batted .140 in 24 games there.

"Let's get [Tabata] out of that spotlight, give him a chance to find his own comfort zone," said Hurdle, who likes the idea of Tabata's speed on the bases in front of Rod Barajas and Clint Barmes, the Nos. 7 and 8 hitters whose bats have warmed. "Now that they're spanking, we can score runs at the bottom [of the order] as well as on top."

The lineup won't survive a third straight day: Left-hander Bruce Chen is slated to start for Kansas City on Sunday, thus Jones figures to shift to right with Matt Hague returning to first.

PITTSBURGH -- When Clint Hurdle falls in love with a lineup, the affair usually doesn't last long. Pittsburgh's manager has not gone longer than two consecutive games with the same batting order, but the current alignment could have a little more shelf life.

The lineup turned in for the first two games against the Royals has dramatic differences from the look for most of the season's first two months -- principally with the Garrett Jones-Pedro Alvarez-Jose Tabata link fourth-through-sixth.

Alvarez and Tabata have both been lowered into lesser-pressure spots from cleanup and leadoff, respectively.

"I'm trying to get Pedro out of the fourth-hole, like taking a little pressure out of a football. Same with Tabata," Hurdle said. "[Tabata] profiles to be a top-of-the-order guy; unfortunately, the numbers haven't played out well."

In 31 games leading off, Tabata hit .217 with only nine walks in 132 plate appearances; he took over as the primary leadoff man with the demotion of Alex Presley, whose recent return from Indianapolis freed him to move elsewhere. The Alvarez clean-up experiment, which began May 5, pretty much went bust, as he batted .140 in 24 games there.

"Let's get [Tabata] out of that spotlight, give him a chance to find his own comfort zone," said Hurdle, who likes the idea of Tabata's speed on the bases in front of Rod Barajas and Clint Barmes, the Nos. 7 and 8 hitters whose bats have warmed. "Now that they're spanking, we can score runs at the bottom [of the order] as well as on top."

The lineup won't survive a third straight day: Left-hander Bruce Chen is slated to start for Kansas City on Sunday, thus Jones figures to shift to right with Matt Hague returning to first.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.