High Single-A Potomac Nationals shortstop Ricky Hague is putting together a full season after missing most of last year with a shoulder injury.
Hague has worked very hard to strengthen the shoulder and game repetition has helped him maintain his range of motion.
“The shoulder feels great,” Hague said recently. “It has given me no problems. It feels strong. No pain at all.”
Hague has also learned that playing 92 games so far in a season is the true test every baseball player at the professional level must go through, and what it takes to remain focused and not let travel and tough hours affect your game.
“(The key is not getting) mentally tired for a long season,” Hague said. “I have never really dealt with something like this before, so it has been a learning experience. I kind of under estimated how long it really was.”
The P-Nats had trouble winning on the road, but an offensive explosion on their most recent trip to Salem, may be the light at the end of the tunnel they need to get on a roll here late in the second half of the season. The team beat Salem 7-4 on Saturday and pounded out 32 hits in a two-game span.
Hague said having the right frame of mind has helped the Nationals to keep battling through tough at-bats.
“As far as the road thing, we will break that,” Hague said prior to leaving for Salem. “We will have to if we are going to do anything in the playoffs. It is a mental grind more than anything. That is what we are going through now.
“I think what we have to do is expect a battle. That will prepare us for struggles. That will keep us even keel and not let us get down in the dugout and always be ready to come back.”
Like P-Nats predecessor and now Nationals infielder Steve Lombardozzi, Hague has been playing a couple of different positions so they can put him in every game. The P-Nats are stocked with quality infielders like Jason Martinson, Blake Kelso, Stephen King, Matt Skole and Francisco Soriano.
“(I have been playing) short and second,” Hague said. “A lot of second base recently. I am feeling comfortable there and wherever they put me I feel pretty comfortable so that has been good.
“From second base, the load on your shoulder is a lot easier, except for the turn. All the different angles feel fine. Deep in the hole that throw at short feels alright too.”
But maybe the most crucial teaching moment for Hague this season has been deciding what kind of hitter he wants to be and going for it. Hague is hitting .256 and has 17 doubles, three triples, six homers, 19 stolen bases and 45 RBIs in 92 games.
“I really have had to learn what kind of hitter I am going to be,” Hague said. “Sometimes, I try to become more of a power hitter and that kind of messes up my approach and I start chasing. I am really learning I am more a gap-to-gap guy and I am going to get on base a lot. That has really helped me stay in the zone and get on base and do things for the team.”
And just like an experienced hitter, Hague is waiting for the pitcher to give him the pitch he wants instead of letting the pitcher dictate the at-bat.
“I just want to hit the fastball when I can hit the fastball,” Hague said. “If I get to two strikes I know I have just got to battle. I am learning that every at bat is a battle. You are just trying to survive out there.
“I like to steal bases and I am always trying to get that extra base. (Outfield coordinator) Tony Tarasco really preaches on that. I think I am that kind of player. I am going to try to improve my speed in the off season and keep those numbers up.”
After playing only four games last season, Hague has 92 games and 347 at-bats under his belt this season. Hague is also a candidate for the Arizona Fall League, which begins play Oct. 9, and there are no more updates on his rehabbing shoulder, but rather his play on the field.
That is the best news of all for Hague in 2012.