PITTSBURGH -- As the Pirates went through a pre-Opening Day workout at PNC Park on Wednesday, a common element emerged for the two leading stories of a Spring Training dissolving into the background. Matt Hague was the biggest surprise of the spring, and he was rewarded with his formal inclusion on the season-opening roster. Pedro Alvarez was the biggest disappointment of the spring, which was reflected in the questions being posed manager Clint Hurdle regarding the third baseman's security.
The common element: Winter League in the Dominican Republic. Hague went, and unlocked the power that made him undeniable, hitting a homer every eight at-bats after averaging one per 44.5 at-bats last year in Triple-A Indianapolis. Alvarez declined to follow the team's request that he go, and he carried the same heavy bat through Spring Training that he had dragged last season. The coming weeks will tell how it goes for Alvarez and where he winds up, but a wide-eyed Hague wound up in his own heaven. "I'm excited. I'm happy," said the 26-year-old, whose next Major League at-bat will be his first. "I'll keep getting my work in, so whenever the times comes that they need me, I'll go out there and do what I've been working for." Also taking seats on the bench are Josh Harrison and Yamaico Navarro, who both have limited previous big league experience. The fourth survivor, reliever Jared Hughes, got into a dozen games in September. April is different. "This is something I dreamed about and envisioned all offseason," said Hughes, beaming. "I just went day to day, and it eventually blew up into a good Spring Training."