SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (CBS/AP) — Ryan Vogelsong isn’t too concerned about what other guys do with their World Series championship rings. He’s wearing his once he gets it.
Given his long journey back to the big leagues from five years of baseball obscurity to world champion last season, the San Francisco Giants right-hander has good reason to flash his bling.
“It’s a long time coming,” Vogelsong said Thursday. “I know what it took me to get that ring and I’m going to enjoy it and wear it for sure.”
Vogelsong’s story is well-documented. From Giants draft pick in 1998 to being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2001 to being released after the 2006 season, after which he went on to play in Japan through the 2009 season. Upon returning to the U.S., he toiled in the minor leagues in 2010 and in 2011 and got called up early in the season by the Giants from Triple-A Fresno. He joined the starting rotation and pitched so well that manager Bruce Bochy named him an NL All-Star that summer.
Vogelsong went 13-7 that year, and last year finished 14-9 but saved perhaps some of his best work for the postseason. After achieving career highs in wins, strikeouts (158) and innings pitched (189 2/3) in the regular season, he won three games in four starts in the playoffs.
None was bigger than Game 6 of the NLCS at AT&T Park. Vogelsong allowed one run on four hits and struck out nine in seven innings to even up the series with the St. Louis Cardinals at 3-3 and keep San Francisco alive for an eventual Game 7 clincher.
Vogelsong then won Game 3 of the World Series and the Giants went on to sweep the Detroit Tigers. Rather than feel nervous, he felt sure of himself in the World Series and said it was more difficult not being on the mound.
“When I was pitching, I had this overwhelming feeling of, ‘This is my time and God had put me in this situation and put me through everything else to get me ready for that postseason,”’ he said.
It took a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in January for Vogelsong to take an introspective look at how far he’d come. He viewed the World Series display at the museum.
“When I saw my jersey in there . that’s when things kind of sunk in quite a bit,” Vogelsong said.
Vogelsong said one thing he improved on from 2011 was pitching better with runners on base. He credited the Giants’ defense behind him and some luck for part of that.
“Just look at what our defense did in the postseason. We get to see that every night,” Vogelsong said. “It’s just that everyone else got to see it when we were on national TV.”
This spring, Vogelsong is in camp healthy from the start as opposed to a year ago, when he hurt his back lifting weights and missed the early part. He got through last season but acknowledged he has to stay on top of the injury now.
Vogelsong actually got an earlier start than many of his teammates even though he threw his first team bullpen session Thursday. He’s been throwing since before camp officially opened because he will be leaving the Giants to join Team USA in the World Baseball Classic early next month.
“These guys that are going (to the WBC), they’ll be worked a little different,” Bochy said. “It’s going to be so vital for us to make sure these guys are game-ready when they leave here and we’ll make sure that Vogey’s ready and that’s why his ‘pen (bullpen session) was a little bit longer.”
Bochy said he spoke with USA manager Joe Torre, who told him that Vogelsong figures to have a pitch limit and is likely to be used in the second WBC game.
“This is an honor for him and we’re happy for him and he’s excited about it, to represent his country,” Bochy said. “It’s neat to see that he’s accomplished so much in a couple of years despite all his ups and downs.”
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