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Hague dials it up for Herd

Matt Hague’s status as the International League’s top hitter didn’t carry a lot of weight Thursday with home plate umpire Shane Livensparger.

The Buffalo Bisons’ infielder was ejected in the nightcap of a doubleheader for arguing balls and strikes. After the inning ended, Herd manager Gary Allenson got himself tossed for arguing that decision.

Luckily, that’s about all that’s gone wrong for Hague lately.

The 29-year-old from Bellevue, Wash., is the International League’s top hitter, with a .352 average after a 2-for-2 outing Saturday in the Herd’s 5-4 win over Charlotte in front of 11,842 fans at Coca-Cola Field.

Hague also leads the IL in hits (81), doubles (19), on-base percentage (.430) and total bases (114).

Hague added two stolen bases in a box score-stuffing effort against the Knights.

“He’s a pretty good player,” Allenson said. “He’s got very good instincts.”

That may read as understated, but Allenson’s intent was clear – Hague has been the key cog of the Bisons’ offense.

“I’m really trying to learn from the past, and not give away at-bats,” Hague said of his approach at the plate this year. “Over the long course of a season, that’s so easy to do. You’re not going to be successful every time, clearly, but if I’m trying to learn from each time I do fail.”

Hague has a lot of experience from which to draw on, having played 863 career games in the minor leagues, including 542 at Triple-A. He’s always been a hitter, too, with career averages of .298 in the minors and .297 at Triple-A.

Despite those averages, he hasn’t had much more than a cup of coffee in the big leagues, appearing in just 33 MLB games with Pittsburgh, the team that drafted him in the ninth round in 2008.

His most extensive playing time in the majors came in 2012, when he appeared in 30 games and hit .229 in 70 at-bats.

It would be natural for Hague’s mind to drift toward when his next chance in the big leagues will come given his great start to 2015.

The Bisons have made 106 player moves in 2015 this season, a pace that will come close to the franchise record of 239 such transactions set a season ago. The Bisons have used 49 players already this year.

“It’s going to impact how we play a little just because you’re playing with different guys every day,” Hague said. “You hate to say it, but it almost comes down to every player trying to take care of themselves. At the same time, when you have the mentality of playing for the team, your results are usually better.”

That’s why Hague isn’t stressing about when his next call-up will come.

“If I start worrying about that stuff, it kind of takes away from what I’m doing,” he said. “You start thinking about the future, you try to do too much, the next thing you know you’re 0 for 4. It’s easy to spiral when you start looking at the future, so you really take it day by day and stick to the routine you’ve created.”

Hague was claimed off waivers by the parent Toronto Blue Jays from the Pirates last August.

“So far, this organization has been unbelievable,” he said. “It’s really relaxed. They let you go play some baseball and have some fun.”