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Pirates 1B Matt Hague playing waiting game

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Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Matt Hague sat in the visitors locker room at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday and sipped a cup of coffee.

Even Hague had to appreciate the irony.

The 26-year-old is hoping his promising spring will result in a roster spot when the clubs cut to 25 players on Wednesday. Yet even his eye-popping numbers may not keep him from being a victim of the numbers' game.

The Pirates have committed to see if Garrett Jones will pan out at first. If he doesn't, Casey McGehee was brought in from Milwaukee as an insurance policy. That leaves very little wiggle room for Hague, whose seven home runs during spring training is tied for tops in the majors.

''I'm just trying not to think about all the decisions that have to be made,'' Hague said. ''It's been fun. I just came in here trying to accomplish some stuff and I have. But at the same time, it's spring training. I'm trying to keep the confidence and momentum going into the season.''

Even if it doesn't start in Pittsburgh.

Regardless of where he's playing on the weekend, Hague knows the last six weeks have revived his career.

The former Oklahoma State star has toiled in the minors for the last four seasons, needing 1,739 at-bats to smack 41 home runs. He only needed 52 to get to seven this spring. Do the math and that's 70 home runs over a full major league season.

For a team in desperate need of some pop, it's a promising sign. It just might not be enough to keep Hague from starting the season in Triple-A Indianapolis.

''I'll be happy with whatever happens,'' Hague said. ''Wherever they want. As long as I get some at-bats, it doesn't matter.''

At least for now.

General manager Neal Huntington said he and Clint Hurdle are still working on shaping the roster that will face the Phillies on Thursday. Hague is hardly the only player who has separated himself this spring.

Third basemen Josh Harrison and Yamaico Navarro have both played solid in the fight to back up Pedro Alvarez. Figuring out who stays isn't necessarily a bad thing.

''That's the fun part of the job when guys go out and play very, very well,'' Huntington said. ''Our relievers haven't necessarily all gone out and just grabbed a hold of jobs and not let them go. Yet Harrison and Navarro certainly have. They've gone out and played very well. It's hard to see taking any of them off the club.''

Hague understands. He's also aware he needs to prove his power surge isn't an anomaly. The only place where he'll be able to get at-bats on a consistent basis is in the minors.

Though Hague's career batting average is a solid .302, he's only slugging .452 - not exactly the kind of numbers you need out of a first baseman. He worked with minor league coach Dean Treanor on looking to drive the ball better during the winter and swinging for the fences.

''Before, I was just so complacent with getting hits,'' he said. ''The ball flies pretty well in spring training parks also, so I'm a little more comfortable taking more shots. That's what's been a big focus, just taking as many shots as I can.''

The logjam at first might not last forever. Hague knows the Pirates are building toward something. He wants to be a part of it.

''I think there's great focus going into spring training,'' he said. ''Clint has a message and everybody buys into it. But really, we're going about our business and trying to be as good as we can.''

---

AP Sports Writer Dan Gelston in Philadelphia contributed to this report.

Tagged: Pirates

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