03/05/12 10:43 PM EST
Alvarez slow to get out of the gate
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
Battle for Bucs' first-base job heating up
SARASOTA, Fla. -- The race to be the Pirates' first baseman, off to an interesting start, may need a revised handicap. The favored entry has left the gate slowly, while two longshots are making some noise.Garrett Jones went 1-for-2 in Monday night's 10-3 win over the Orioles, leaving him and Casey McGehee 1-for-6 in three games. Meanwhile, two outsiders for the job have the Bucs' only home runs through three exhibitions. Matt Hague went deep in the third inning on Monday for two of his three RBIs, one night after Nick Evans homered against Toronto.
Hague, a valued prospect without big league experience, and Evans, a Mets alumni, are a combined 5-for-12 with four RBIs.Hague has a four-year Minor League average of .302, and last season, his first at the Triple-A level, he hit .309 with 12 homers and 75 RBIs.
Manager Clint Hurdle's nickname for him: The Hit Collector."Yeah, he's finding grass," Hurdle said. "I wanted to find him some early at-bats [as the DH], but I told him not to lose his glove, that we'll give him some time in the field." A few more games likes Monday night's -- when he joined Starling Marte and Alex Presley in the three-hit column -- and he might have to be called The Hague, stealing the name from the capital of South Holland, a Netherlands province.
Monday night's win snapped the Pirates' two-year and seven-game Grapefruit League losing streak to the Orioles. Pittsburgh's previous preseason win over Baltimore came on March 5, 2010. Some exhibitions are more high profile than others, and the Bucs take their first step under the spotlight on Tuesday by hosting the Yankees. The 1:05 p.m. ET game at McKechnie Field starts as a duel between 2011 Opening Day pitchers Kevin Correia and CC Sabathia. Josh Harrison started at short for the Bucs on Monday and doubled in the first inning to drive in their first run. He had been hit by a pitch on the elbow on Saturday and given Sunday off as a precaution. Tony Sanchez got his first plate appearance of the spring on Monday and drew a seventh-inning walk, then singled in the ninth. Ramon Cabrera, another catching prospect, is the only able-bodied player in camp without a gamer appearance.
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.