PITTSBURGH -- The first shoe of the Pirates' disappointing offense landed Friday afternoon on Nate McLouth, whose designation for assignment triggered a considerable shakeup of the Bucs' lineup. Recalled from Indianapolis to take the vacated spot on the 25-man roster was Matt Hague, who was immediately inserted into the starting lineup against the Cubs and right-hander Ryan Dempster. The departure of McLouth, who apparently preferred this rather than a chance to rediscover his swing in Triple-A, also leaves a vacancy on the 40-man roster. That may soon turn out to be the other shoe.
"[How to fill that spot] has been a topic of discussion throughout the day," manager Clint Hurdle admitted. "We've got some thoughts." There is a healthy difference of opinion on how to fill that 40-man opening -- options range from internal promotions to external acquisitions -- but there were none when it came to the unproductive McLouth. His enduring popularity and local history couldn't compensate for a .140 average and ongoing 0-for-22 drought. So Hague, a Spring Training sensation, returned and was in the lineup a few hours after having played all 15 innings Thursday of Indianapolis' 2-1 victory over Louisville, which he decided with a game-winning single that scored Alex Presley. "We'll give him some playing time at first base. Maybe he can help generate some offense," Hurdle said. "We'll see where it takes us. We're trying something different from an offensive standpoint, and this is one of the ways we decided to try." At Indianapolis, where he was hitting .278 in 36 games, Hague primarily played third base. Having him at first Friday night kept both Casey McGehee and Garrett Jones on the bench -- the first time all season neither was in the starting lineup. Unlike three years ago, when he was an All-Star center fielder and his deal to Atlanta was a major news story, McLouth left Pittsburgh quietly. At 30, he counts on a chance to resurrect his career. "[McLouth] gave us everything he had. He feels good about the effort, as I do," Hurdle said. "Nobody was satisfied with the outcome. In discussing ways to [get on track], we talked openly about him needing to go somewhere for three weeks to get some at-bats. He wanted to go about it a different way, and we wish him nothing but the best." Although the manager didn't clarify those comments, the clear inference was that McLouth declined accepting reassignment to the Minor Leagues -- something he can still accept while on designated status -- in favor of exploring the market.
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.