PITTSBURGH, Pa. — Infielder Matt Hague has had an exciting 12 hours. After connecting for a walkoff single for the Indianapolis Indians on Thursday night in the bottom of the 15th inning, Hague was greeted by his teammates on the field for the win. But little did he know a few hours later that he’d get even better news.
Hague was told he was being recalled back to Pittsburgh late last night. After jumping on a flight and arriving in Pittsburgh this morning, the 26-year-old is running on pure adrenaline.
“It’s exciting. I got a lot of work in while I was at Triple-A. I’m just excited to put it to use,” Hague said. “I’m just going to be ready. That’s my job. Just ready to play whenever my name is in the lineup.”
Hague won’t have to wait long before getting his first at-bat. The infielder will bat sixth tonight and play first base.
“We’re going to try and get him some at-bats. Get him some playing time at first base, string him some things together to see if it can help generate some offense,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said. “He’s had a pretty consistent 10 games or so with his approach. He is definitely excited to be back here. He had a game winning hit last night. Long game, didn’t miss his flight, got here just in time. We’ll see where it takes us.”
Hague, 26, broke camp with the Pirates after a huge spring in which he connected for a team-leading .400 average and seven home runs. Hague went 1-for-9 with two RBI in five games before being optioned to Indianapolis on April 14. While with Indy, the infielder hit for a .278/.325/.333 line in 144 at-bats.
The infielder admitted that he tried to do too much while with Indy, which resulted in a slow month of April. Hague improved for a .311/.366/.378 line in 90 at-bats during May, but wasn’t hitting for power. Hague connected for his first home run of the season on Tuesday at Buffalo.
“When I first got down there my swing just got a little long,” Hague said. “I just had to work on shortening my swing up a little. The last couple weeks I’ve been feeling pretty good at the plate…When I was first in Triple-A, I was trying to do too much. That always gets out of your plan. I kind of just settled down. Got comfortable. Just more repetition and pitches that I [saw], the better my swing felt. Just got outside myself. Just trying to control everything.”
“He’s going through a lot of the same things that we have many of our hitters here going through. Just trying too hard,” Hurdle said. “He went down there and tried too hard. The one thing he did in spring training, he saw the ball big and he hit it to the big part of the ballpark stayed within himself. Intentionally when he went down there, if I go down there and blow some stuff up early, I’ll get a quick callback. Things got out of sorts. It was a struggle for a while. There wasn’t any power to anything he was doing. I think he slowed it down, found a better comfort zone at the plate as far as his approach.”
Hurdle also mentioned that with Hague back in Pittsburgh, both Casey McGehee and Garrett Jones, who have been platooning at first, will be put on pause right now. McGehee has hit just .089 this month, and Jones has hit .170 in the same time.
“I’m also of the opinion, if you’ve done it once, you can do it again,” Hurdle said. “It can click for him starting tonight. We’re just looking for him to come in now and give us a look at first base with some consistent at-bats. See where he can take it. There is happiness there. There is disappointment with McGehee and Jones because now they’ve been put on pause. They’ll have to find different opportunities. That’s never easy as well. We’ve got to find a different way across the living room from an offensive standpoint and this is one of the decisions we made to try.”
While with Indy, Hague played the majority of his 36 games at third base in order to improve his versatility for Hurdle, as well as off the bench.
“I’ve actually played all the games except two at third base in Triple-A,” Hague said. “I feel very comfortable there. It’s just repetition over there and I’m starting to feel a lot better over there.”
In order to recall Hague, the Pirates designated Nate McLouth for assignment. McLouth was 0-for-his last 22 at-bats and hitting just .140/.210/.175 over 57 at-bats. The 30-year-old, who was drafted by Pittsburgh in 2000 and spent parts of five seasons before being traded to Atlanta in 2009, had a lot of history.
“The one thing I always try and plug myself back in because you’re dealing with human beings. Men with dreams and desires. He has history here. He’s added value to this organization,” Hurdle said. “With that being said, as we tried to plan out a map of recovery for him, there was really limited opportunity for him to stack some at-bats. I really feel he needs to go play somewhere for three weeks and get some at-bats. We talked openly and honestly about all of it.”
“At the end of the day, I think he’s going to see it through another way which I completely respect. He’s not the reason our offense hasn’t produced the way we feel it should produce. There’s no one man who’s tied to this. There could be one decision or two decisions made over the time to try and reconnect some things. He gave us everything he had. He feels at least good about the effort as I do. And the intent. Just nobody is satisfied with the outcome. We wish him nothing but good things and thank him for everything he’s done.”
The Pirates currently have one open spot on the 40-man roster due to the DFA of McLouth. Hurdle said they have plenty of ideas, but none currently to share.