Hague, Hughes Make First Opening Day Roster with Pirates

Matt Hague has made the opening day roster.

The Pirates had until 5:00 p.m. ET to set their rosters for Opening Day, and after a series of moves, Pittsburgh’s Opening Day 25-man roster shaped up.

  • Right-hander Chris Leroux was placed on the 60-Day disabled list due to a  strained right pectoral muscle. Leroux sustained the injury during the Pirates 5-2 loss to the Phillies on Tuesday in Philadelphia. He is required to rest for 4-6 weeks. With placing Leroux on DL, a spot opened on the roster to add righty veteran Juan Cruz.
  • Right-hander A.J. Burnett was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to March 26 (eligible for reinstatement April 10), and Charlie Morton was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to March 29 (eligible for reinstatement April 13).
  • The Pirates decided to carry an extra bat instead of an arm this spring in place of Morton. Righty Jared Hughes made the final spot in the Bucco ‘pen, and all three — Matt Hague, Josh Harrison, Yamaico Navarro — made the club out of spring training for the Opening Day roster on the bench.

For Hague, 26, it not only marked his first Opening Day roster, but when he takes the field this weekend, he will also be making his Major League debut.

Standing at his first big league locker in the clubhouse at PNC Park on Wednesday, the 26-year-old was grinning as he surrounded by the media, trying to put into words what making the club means to him.

“I’m very excited. It’s kind of emotional, but at the same time, a little overwhelming,” Hague said. “Just trying to stay even keel and get to work today.”

“This town,” Hague said smiling, “I was here last September, and the fan support, they take their sports seriously. It’s awesome to be here. And a pleasure to be here.”

Hague finished with a .400/.400/.800 line with seven homers in 55 at-bats during Grapefruit League action this spring in his first ever big league camp.

“I’m basically just trying to go out there and focus on that at-bat,” Hague said. “Not really get caught up in all that other stuff. Just try to accomplish my goal during that at-bat. Just really try to keep doing what’s been working for me.”

The seven home runs that Hague hit this spring not only led the team, but it also lead all of baseball entering Tuesday’s game action. Nicknamed ‘the hit collector’, due to his ability to pick up hit after hit, all season long, Hague showed more power this spring then he has in years past. After hearing for years that he will never be an everyday first baseman in the Majors due to hitting just 12 homers in 2011, Hague so far has been proving everyone wrong.

“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.”

“I think just not really paying much attention to it,” Hague said of the negative backlash of not having enough power. “Just kind of going out there and do what I know I can do. Keep working, try to get better and let the rest take care of itself.”

With having Hague, Harrison and Navarro on the bench, it looks much stronger than years past. And that’s one thing Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle is excited about.

“One of the challenges that I’m looking forward to is, I have three players on the bench that had the three best springs of anybody down there outside of McCutchen,” Hurdle said. “We can very well mix things up very dramatically out of the chute with a number of left-handed pitchers that we’re going to face.”

For Hughes, 26, it marked the first time he made an Opening Day roster with the Pirates after making 12 appearances with the club last season.

“It’s something you dream about, you envision all offseason, you work hard work. It’s definitely something,” said Hughes, who was all smiles in the clubhouse on Wednesday prior to the workouts.

Hughes allowed four runs on 13 hits over 10.0 innings this spring. He has walked three and struck out 10 over nine appearances during Grapefruit League action. Hughes is looking to carry over his success in Florida in Pittsburgh.

“I tried not to think too much into the future,” Hughes said. “I just really focused on the day that I was at that point in time. I was just to throw sinkers down and get ground balls, keep my team in the game. As I took it day by day, eventually it kind of built up into a good spring training.”

After starting the 2011 season in Double-A Altoona, where he made 11 starts and appeared in two games in relief, Hughes was promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis in June where he was used exclusively in the bullpen. Hughes posted a 2.11 ERA over 42.2 innings with 45 strikeouts before getting a call to the big leagues on September 6. Overall, Hughes appeared in 12 games with the Pirates where he allowed five runs on nine hits over 11.0 innings. He walked four and struck out 10.

“As I keep getting more experience as a reliever, I keep understanding what I need to do to get ready for the game,” Hughes said. ” I’m able to go out there with a good approach as well.”