Pirates Notebook: Hague Battling for Bench Job

BRADENTON, Fla. — The hit collector. That’s what Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle’s nickname is for infielder Matt Hague.

And that’s exactly what he’s been doing this spring — collecting hits. Over seven Grapefruit League games this spring, Hague has gone 6-for-18 (.333 avg) with a home run and four RBI. The 26-year-old has been a professional hitter his entire Minor League career. In fact, last season with Triple-A Indianapolis, Hague finished the season with 165 hits, which ranked No. 1 in the International League.

So how exactly does Hague fit in with the Pirates right now? Drafted as a third baseman in the 9th round of the 2008 draft, Hague has been getting in work back at the hot corner after primarily playing first base since 2009.

“He’s finding grass. He hit one over the wall,” Hurdle said. “So far as advertised.”

With Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee platooning at first to start the season, Hague will be battling for a utility job this spring.

“Not for the first base platoon, but a shot on the bench somewhere,” General Manager Neal Huntington said of Hague’s role with the club. “That’s where we’re going to push the third base a little bit to see how he can handle that. Can there be multiple positions for him off the bench in a pinch-hit role, part-time role? At the same time, we’ve got some other guys that are in that mix as well that are swinging the bat. We’ve got some depth and some options, but Matt’s had a nice spring.”

Hague, along with Jake Fox and Nick Evans are under consideration for the job. Although statistics in the ‘B’ game held at Pirate City on Saturday don’t count towards Spring Training stats, Hague crushed a two-run homer to left field off the Minnesota Twins’ righty Scott Baker. Hague took the first pitch he saw out of the field, bouncing off the roof of the Pirate City clubhouse well over the 370 foot sign.

“Matt continues to swing the bat well,” Huntington said. “Obviously the home run [Monday] in the ‘B’ game. He’s collected his share of hits, as Clint dropped down, ‘the hit collector.’ We’re getting a good feel from Matt, what he can do, obviously an intelligent hitter.”

Sanchez Was Worth the Admission

First-round pick in the 2009 draft catcher Tony Sanchez impressed Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle during the Pirates 4-1 loss on Monday. Sanchez may have had a disappointing season in 2011, but he’s working hard to prove his potential.

And perhaps his hard work is starting to payoff.

Sanchez went 2-for-2 on Monday throwing out runners attempting to swipe second base. Sanchez caught Phillies’ Kevin Frandsen and Tyson Gilles in the 8th and 9th innings trying to steal a bag.

“For me, the price of admission today paid to two throws by Tony Sanchez,” Hurdle said. “I don’t know if anybody was going to ask me about those, but I think we need to talk about those. You’re not going to see many catchers unload quicker than that more accurate with the velocity he had on those two. They were both 1.85 release time, glove side to the ball at second base. He’s had a much better spring, a much more comfortable spring. He’s receiving the ball very well. He gets down to his knees quicker than anybody I’ve ever had. It’s fun watching. He’s finding his comfort zone a little bit.”

Day of Rest

The Pirates have a scheduled off day today, their first of two off days this spring. The other is on Monday, March 19.

Play resumes on Wednesday for the Pirates (3-7) as the will face the Baltimore Orioles (4-4) in Sarasota at 1:05. Right-hander James McDonald is scheduled to start for the Pirates against Baltimore’s righty Jake Arietta. Following McDonald in relief are: Joel Hanrahan, Jason Grilli, Shairon Martis, Evan Meek and Jared Hughes.

Author: Kristy Robinson

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