A year ago, it was almost impossible to imagine Ryan Vogelsong anywhere else besides the San Francisco Giants rotation. But after struggling at the beginning of the season, taking a pitch off his right hand that shattered his pinkie, and a disappointing final month, the Giants bought out the final year of Vogelsong’s contract.
A month to the day after becoming a free agent, Vogelsong re-signed with the Giants for $5MM. In the end he was taking a fairly small cut in pay in terms of percentage, but the experience somehow provided Vogelsong with even more motivation than before.
Here’s my Q&A with Vogelsong from Media Day, where he talked about exactly how rough 2013 was compared to the rest of his career (hint: really rough), the physical changes pitchers go through with age, and his almost-breakup with the Giants.
Q: You had a long year last year with a short offseason, and then the WBC, and then you get hit on the hand. At the end of the year, was there ever a time where you kind of decompressed and said, “Man, that was exhausting,” or was it back to the grind?
Vogelsong: Yeah, I took about a month to decompress. And yeah, I talked to some people not too long ago and I told them that last year – and this is hard to believe, with all the years in Pittsburgh when I was struggling and pitching horrible – last year was probably the most frustrating year I had. And I think the reason is because in Pittsburgh I hadn’t pitched well yet. I didn’t know really what I was capable of. I knew what I wanted to be capable of, but I hadn’t done it yet.
So then to have two great years and then have a year like last year … I know what I’m capable of now, and to not be able to perform that way made it very frustrating and very long. And then to have the hand injury on top of that, it was probably the most draining season I’ve ever had in my career.
Q: You’re a big video guy, right?
Vogelsong: I watch myself a little bit. I’m more of a video guy to watch hitters. But if something’s wrong I think it’s a very good thing to do.
Q: Did you watch video of yourself in 2011, ’12, ’13 to kind of see what progression there was and if you were doing anything differently?
Vogelsong: I did. Sometimes it’s just your body changing. I’m going to be 37. Your body changes with age. One of the things that I’ve learned this offseason is once you get older, your ribcage tightens. As a pitcher, that’s not a real good thing to have happen. It tightens you up, it slows your arm down. You don’t get as much rotation in your arm if your ribs are tight. So the stuff that I saw on camera that I was trying to fix, I don’t think my body was capable of doing. And I’ve spent a lot of time this offseason trying to fix the flexibility issues in my body so that I am capable of throwing the ball the way I want to throw it.
Q: Is that yoga?
Vogelsong: Yoga, and just straight static stretching. A lot of yoga. Some isometric stuff, trying to strengthen stuff and stretch stuff at the same time. It’s been an interesting and a pretty painful offseason for me, in that aspect.
Q: How happy are you to be back with the Giants, and how long was that window of time where you weren’t really sure if you’d be back, or you thought there was more than a 50% chance you’d end up somewhere else?
Vogelsong: I’m really happy to be back. There’s really nowhere else I wanted to be other than here. It was a little shaky there for a while, and it was upsetting, you know? Not because I was really that mad about what was going on, but there’s just an emotional connection with me and this place because of what I’ve been through and the comeback here. And the fans, the way the fans are with me and the connection I have with them. It was almost like I was breaking up with a girlfriend. It was tough.
So yeah, I’m really happy to be back in that aspect. But when we were getting down to the deadline for the option to be picked up, the longer that it went I kind of knew that probably wasn’t a good thing, that it wasn’t going to get picked up. I felt like if it was going to get picked up, it probably would’ve been something that was done right away. And at that point in time, I didn’t really know why. But looking back, and seeing how the sequence of guys signing and what went down, I kind of know why it had to happen that way. But at the end of the day I’m just happy that it worked out. That I’m here. Because this is where I want to be and where my wife wants to be, and that’s a major factor in decision-making sometimes.
Q: So no hard feelings? Everything’s good?
Vogelsong: No (hard feelings), and you know what? Whether they meant to do it or not, it was a little bit of a wakeup call and a great motivator, really. It’s done a lot for me this offseason.