First baseman Matt Hague will take the field at PNC Park today during the Opening Day festivities, wearing a Pirates Major League jersey for the first time in his professional career.
Hague created quite a buzz during spring training –leading the club in batting (.400) and home runs (7) will do that for the 26-year-old, who Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle referred to as ‘the hit collector’.
“At first it was kind of overwhelming, but now that’s it kind of sunk in a little, I think more excitement is a better word for it,” Hague said after taking batting practice. “I’m ready to have some fun and see what the big league’s are like.”
Hague was a 9th round pick in the 2008 draft by Pittsburgh, and has been hitting his way up to Pittsburgh –.321 avg in 2008, .293 avg in 2009, .295 avg in 2010, and a .309 avg in 2011. The first baseman Hague isn’t in the starting lineup today, but could very well make his Major League debut at some point during the game in a pinch-hit situation.
“I think it’s just a lot of excitement,” Hague said. “I’ve worked a long time to be here, and now it’s finally come. I’m excited more than anything.”
“He wouldn’t be here if we listened to all the experts,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle. “This kid can hit. We’re going to find out if he can hit here…I don’t think any of us were smart enough to deny him the opportunity to go in and take the next step.”
Happy Opening Day from PNC Park. There’s always an excitement, a buzz on the first day of the season.
“It’s what I do,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said. “It’s a life that I’ve chosen. Every journey starts with one step, one significant step. Opening Day is always a significant step. Walking out of the house today, it’s time to rise and shine. It’s time for our men to rise and shine this year in 2012.”
- Pirates Opening Day lineup vs. Phillies:
Alex Presley 7
Jose Tabata 9
Andrew McCutchen 8
Neil Walker 4
Garrett Jones 3
Rod Barajas 2
Pedro Alvarez 5
Clint Barmes 6
Erik Bedard 1
- The Bucs are opening the season at home for just the second time in the last seven years. They beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 11-5, at PNC Park in 2010.
- The Pirates have won each of their last five season openers; 6-3 in Chicago last year, 11-5 vs. Los Angeles in 2010, 6-4 vs. St. Louis in 2009, 12-11 in 12 innings in Atlanta in 2008, and 4-2 in 10 innings in Houston in 2007. A win this afternoon would give the Bucs six straight Opening Day victories for the third time in club history.
- Today mark’s the second time the Pirates and Phillies have begun the season at PNC Park. The Bucs won a 2-1 decision on April 5, 2004. The Pirates have gone 6-0 against the Phillies on Opening Day.
- Today mark’s Lefty Erik Bedard’s first start with a National League team. During his eight years of pitching in the National League, he went 8-3 with a 1.82 ERA in 18 starts against National League teams. In three career starts against the Phillies, Bedard has gone 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA and has not given up a run in his last 15.0 innings of work against them.
- Right-hander Juan Cruz will be wearing uniform #37 beginning today. He wore #77 in spring training.
- The average age of the current roster is 28.4, compared to 27.6 last year. Matt Hague and Jared Hughes are the two rookies on the squad. The oldest player in Rod Barajas (36) and the youngest in Jose Tabata (23).
- Here’s a look at the Pirates opening day lineup from last year:
- There are 11 players returning from last year’s opening day roster (not including players on the DL). One player (Juan Cruz) made the team as a non-roster invitee and seven will be wearing black and gold for the first time: Rod Barajas, Clint Barmes, Erik Bedard, Juan Cruz, Matt Hague, Casey McGehee and Yamaico Navarro