Battle for final roster spots going down to wire

Battle for final roster spots going down to wire

Battle for final roster spots going down to wire
PHILADELPHIA -- If results in Spring Training mean anything, Matt Hague's seven home runs and 15 hits in his last 37 at-bats should have him in good shape for a spot on the Pirates' Opening Day roster.

But as Josh Harrison -- fellow candidate for a bench job who had good numbers in 2011 -- notes, a player shouldn't dwell on a demotion, realizing he is just a piece in a greater puzzle.

"We can say a lot of things can count for [making a team], but they're the ones that make a decision and there is much more that goes into it," Harrison said. "Everybody knows that."

By now the Pirates, for whom Harrison hit .326 last August after his second callup, know what he can do. Knowing what GM Neal Huntington is going to do is tougher to predict.

"With the springs some of our position players have had, it's a very viable option to go with 14 [position players] and 11 [pitchers]," Huntington said after the Pirates' 4-3 loss to the Phillies on Monday night. "But I have been burned too many times by giving blatant answers at this time."

"We have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to set our roster."

The Pirates are likely keeping open the possibility of external options, too. But if they decide to go with just a seven-man bullpen, Tony Watson -- who gave up a run in one inning of work Monday night and is in competition with Daniel Moskos for either one or two left-handed relief spots -- Harrison and Yamaico Navarro, both of whom can play the middle infield, as well as corner infielder Hague, could all make the team.

But like Harrison, Hague is going about his business not thinking about that, until inevitably he can't help it.

"It's hard not to get caught up in all that right now because it is getting towards the end of Spring Training and it is on your mind a little bit," Hague said, smiling.

"But I try not to. I'm trying to go out about my business, perform today and whatever happens, happens. Emotions are running high a little bit, but I am trying to focus."

Anybody who saw "The Rookie," and tingled along with Jim Morris when he walked into a Major League clubhouse for the first time, can imagine what Hague -- a ninth-round Draft pick -- will feel if Tuesday or Wednesday turns out to be the best day of his life.

Though a seeming throw-in after Jose Ascanio and Kevin Hart in the deal that sent John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny to Chicago, Harrison is the last thing the Pirates have to show for from the trade. Standing 5-foot-8, with little power and perceived limited range in the field, he nevertheless has hit at every level, including the Majors, to earn this chance.

Hague is a corner guy who, until this spring, hadn't shown corner power. But like Harrison, Hague hit for average -- and a lot of doubles at every Minor League stop.

"Those are two guys who have earned their way," Huntington said. "We like Josh as part of the Cubs trade -- he was not the throw-in, but a part that made that trade possible.

"Both are hard workers, easy guys to root for."

So both are feel-good stories, though in the final hours, neither would dare allow themselves to think how good they might feel on Thursday at PNC Park.

"I would be very happy, obviously," Hague said. Whatever happens, happens and all I can do is hope for the best."