INDIANAPOLIS -- The Pittsburgh Pirates have invited former Indians standouts Matt Hague (1B), Jameson Taillon (RHP), Zack Thornton (RHP) and Carlos Paulino (C) to Major League Spring Training in Bradenton, Fla. All four players saw action with the Tribe last season as they helped guide Indianapolis to its second consecutive International League West Division title.
One of the Indians' all-time greats, Hague receives an invite to big-league camp after leading the International League in hits (153), at-bats (536) and games played (153), while also finishing tied for the league lead with 37 doubles. The two-time Tribe MVP has now led the IL in base knocks in two of the previous three seasons and currently boasts the Indians franchise record for career hits (422) during the Victory Field Era (since 1996). Originally selected by Pittsburgh in the ninth round (264th overall) of the 2008 MLB Draft, Hague enters the 2014 season with a .296 career average (783-for-2642) in 695 Minor League games and a .229 mark (16-for-70 ) in 30 games with the Pirates.
Pirates top pitching prospect Taillon is set for his second straight appearance at big league camp following a promising year in which he excelled at both the Double-A and Triple-A levels. Taillon, who is rated as Pittsburgh's No. 2 overall prospect by Baseball America, began the year with Altoona and turned in a 4-7 record with a 3.67 ERA (45 ER in 110.1 IP) and 106 strikeouts in 20 games (19 starts). The 22-year-old prospect then made a quick adjustment at the Triple-A level to go 1-3 with a 3.89 ERA (16 ER in 37.0 IP) in six starts with Indianapolis, highlighted by a stretch of four straight quality starts to close out the season. Taillon also ranked second in the IL with 37 strikeouts and fifth in total innings pitched after making his Triple-A debut on Aug. 5.
In his first season with the organization, Thornton went a combined 7-3 with five saves, a 2.63 ERA (22 ER in 75.1 IP) and 90 strikeouts in 42 games (one start) between Hi-A Bradenton, Altoona and Indianapolis. He recorded an overall record of 3-1 with a 3.91 ERA (11 ER in 25.1 IP) during four stints with the Tribe last season, and his 31 punchouts to just four walks ranked as the highest strikeout-to-walk ratio among all Indians pitchers with more than 16.0 innings of work. Following the regular season, Thornton capped off the year with a dominating performance in the prestigious Arizona Fall League in which he posted the second-best WHIP (0.75) among league hurlers while also recording nearly a strikeout per inning (14 SO in 14.2 IP).
The 24-year-old catcher Paulino heads to Spring Training on the heels of his first, brief stint at the Triple-A level last season. Although the backstop appeared in just three games with Indianapolis in 2013, he made a strong impression by going 3-for-5 with an 11th-inning, walk-off single in his Triple-A debut on Aug. 29 at Toledo. Prior to joining the Indians, Paulino spent the majority of the campaign with Double-A Altoona where he gunned down an impressive 36 percent of runners attempting to steal (40-of-110). He also produced a .220 average 71-for-323) in 99 games with the Curve before going 3-for-11 (.273) in three regular-season contests with the Tribe.
With the four additions, the Pirates have now invited 16 non-roster players to their Major League camp, including 2013 Indians players Kyle McPherson (RHP) and Robert Andino (INF).