SAN FRANCISCO -- The Pirates knew they had to make a roster move to accommodate right-hander Charlie Morton's first start of the season Saturday night against the Giants. The move general manager Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle chose to make might have caught many off guard: The Bucs cleared roster room by optioning infielder Matt Hague to Triple-A Indianapolis. Among those taken by surprise was Hague himself.
"A little," Hague said while clearing out his locker in the visitors' clubhouse at AT&T Park. "But it's out of my control, and I understand. I wasn't oblivious to the situation." Hurdle had said an infielder was certain to surrender his spot on the 25-man roster to Morton, who is coming off the DL after completing his rehab from hip surgery in October, but many thought the choice would be between Josh Harrison or Yamaico Navarro. As both Huntington and Hurdle detailed, the decision to move Hague was made with an eye on the Bucs' short-range schedule. "After Monday [when the Pirates will face lefty Joe Saunders in Arizona], we'll be looking at a stretch of right-handed starters," Huntington said. "What was going to give Clint the versatility to win? The defensive flexibility of Harrison and Navarro will allow Clint to make moves he needs to during the games." Hague is a corner infielder, most comfortable at first. Both of the other two are middle infielders who can also handle third base. No one expects this move to be either permanent or the only one the club will make involving this trio. Hague quickly became a fan favorite, and the move did not figure to be popular among Pirates fans. But they should bear in mind the fluidity of the roster. "It was about opposition and opportunity," Hurdle said, "and the immediate need. We don't believe this is a long-term demotion. That 25th spot could be based on need throughout the season." "We'll probably makes these moves frequently during the season, with all three guys having options," Huntington said. "I'd be very surprised if the same two are up here a month from now." When Hague does return, he will do so with a level of new comfort thanks to his initial exposure to the big leagues. "Yeah, it was eye-opening to see some of the pitching I saw," he said. "I was fortunate enough to be up here a little bit. The experience in general has been awesome. It was a pleasure. The time spent here was very valuable. "Getting a taste of it was pretty good. I saw what I have to do now to be successful." In his first week as a Major Leaguer, Hague was 1-for-9, with two strikeouts. He started two games against left-handers Cliff Lee and Clayton Kershaw. And what is the role of Pedro Alvarez, the third baseman struggling with 10 strikeouts and one hit in 16 at-bats, in the infielders scrum? "We've played ... what, seven games so far?" Huntington pointed out before Saturday night's game. "An awfully short sample. He's working hard to get better, to take what he does in pregame into the game. We have to get about six other guys going -- and Pedro is included in that -- before we start talking about other situations."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.