San Francisco right-hander Ryan Vogelsong is in a battle for a spot in the Giants rotation, and he made a very strong statement towards being included in the Opening Day starting rotation after tossing 4.2 scoreless innings during San Francisco’s 3-2 win over Milwaukee.
The victory improved the Giants’ Cactus League record to 5-12.
But the story was Vogelsong. The 10-year veteran turned in the longest outing of any Giants starter this spring, although a shot off the bat of Milwaukee second baseman Scooter Gennett almost ended his outing before it really got started.
Vogelsong, who needed 73 pitches to get through his 4.2 innings, began the game by striking out Brewers’ center fielder Carlos Gomez. It was the first of four strikeouts on the afternoon for the 37-year-old right-hander. But his outing was nearly curtailed when Gennett’s shot hit the Giant hurler in his left shin, careening into foul territory along the first base line. Belt calmly picked the ball up and stepped on first for the second out of the game.
Despite taking the shot of the leg, Vogelsong was determined to stay in.
“I love to compete. That’s why I didn’t come out of the game today,” he said, adding that facing just two hitters wouldn’t get him ready for opening day on April 6.
Although Vogelsong didn’t seem too worried about the hard shot off of his shin, Giants’ Manager Bruce Bochy made sure that the training staff took a look at his right-hander, especially since three of the five expected members of the Giants’ opening day rotation are either dealing with, or coming back from, some type of injury. Tim Lincecum is currently dealing with neck soreness, which caused him to miss his last spring outing, while Tim Hudson and Matt Cain are both working there way back into shape after offseason surgeries.
With three-fifths of the Giants’ rotation currently a question mark, Vogelsong’s strong outing could open the door for him to slide into one of the rotation spots should Lincecum, Cain or Hudson falter or not heal in time to be ready for opening day.
While Vogelsong and the Giants hope that Thursday’s start is a sign of things to come for the regular season, the right-hander will need to show continued improvement from now until the end of spring to truly make a push for a rotation spot.
There is no question that Vogelsong was scuffling coming into his start against Milwaukee. In fact, the entire San Francisco pitching staff has struggled this spring. Even with the inclusion of his stats from the Milwaukee game, Vogelsong has still allowed nine runs (eight earned) on 11 hits in just 12.1 innings of work, which equates to a 5.84 ERA. If Vogelsong hopes to earn a rotation spot he will need more outings like the one against Milwaukee, or he will find himself serving as the long-relief guy for the bullpen.
One way that Vogelsong can improve as spring training carries on is his control, which he has described this spring as erratic. Fastball command is especially important to Vogelsong, who used the pitch 38.9 percent of the time during 2014, according to www.fangraphs.com. He said that he feels he is starting to regain command of the fastball, which he started to recognize after his appearance against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Vogelsong’s next goal is to hone his breaking ball before that start of the regular season.
“Today, that’s where I want to be when the season starts,” said Vogelsong about his fastball command. “The breaking ball is still half and half, but it’s better than it was five days ago.”
The Giants will take on Cincinnati tonight (Friday, March 20), looking for a better outcome than the last time the teams met, when Cincinnati came away with a 10-4 win. The Reds feasted on Giant pitching prospects Kyle Crick and Chris Stratton as the duo was responsible for allowing seven runs.