For Ryan Vogelsong, this was more like it. He struggled mightily in his last outing, an 18-3 bludgeoning at the hands of the Seattle Mariners. In Thursday night’s 4-4 tie with the Texas Rangers, Vogelsong showed all the qualities the Giants have come to prize over the last few years.
He battled, which should sound familiar to anyone who watched Vogelsong’s career take off in 2011. There were runners on base in four of the five innings he pitched, but the only run he gave up was on an opposite-field home run by Shin-Soo Choo. He gave up loud contact at times, but he also induced two double-plays … which should also sound familiar.
“It’s something I need to do — get more ground balls. I had a good two-seamer tonight. So that’s a good sign. The last one was on a curveball, so that means that (pitch) was pretty good, too,” Vogelsong said.
“It’s Spring Training, these guys aren’t at full bore yet. But it’s a good outing, a good building block.”
Vogelsong tried to rebuild his mechanics after a difficult 2013, and that process led him to look toward the best pitcher in the game for some ideas. But Clayton Kershaw is left-handed and has been pitching the same way forever, and Vogelsong and his pitching coach both realized after Saturday that he needed to go back to the old way of doing things.
“I was spinning off a lot of balls (in 2013). The ball was flat. So I was kind of thinking, if I could get some shoulder-tilt this way, and come on over, top to bottom. Kershaw’s kind of like that. He has a little shoulder-tilt to him, and he gets really over the ball and gets plane on it. So I’m like, well, the guy’s pretty darned good. Maybe I should try to be doing some of that,” said Vogelsong.
That led to a difficult offseason that started with self-doubt and progressed with more flexibility work than ever before. Everyone was in agreement this week that Vogelsong’s best approach is to go back and fine-tune his old mechanics, but he has no regrets about trying a new way of pitching.
“I think it helped me. I think that made me understand what I needed to do differently. I don’t think it was a wasted experiment,” he said.
After the game, Bruce Bochy shared Vogelsong’s sentiment that he got stronger as the game went on. After a 1-2-3 fourth inning that included a strikeout of Alex Rios, Vogelsong allowed a single in the fifth that was quickly erased when he got Brent Lillibridge to ground into an easy double-play.
“Sometimes you’re better off keeping it simple,” Bochy said. “You’re always trying to improve, but sometimes we can overcomplicate this. I thought he looked comfortable and pounded the strike zone well.”
Spring Training notes
— Andrew Susac, who was sent to minor league camp yesterday, got the start with the big leaguers tonight and crushed one deep over the 379 sign in left field.
“He launched that one pretty good. I mean, that ball was tagged. Good game for him,” Bochy said.
Susac also picked up a lucky RBI on a slow roller to third base that didn’t provide Adrian Beltre a chance to make a play. Hector Sanchez is guaranteed a spot on the Opening Day roster, but that might not be the case next year.
— Brandon Crawford was one of the Giants who worked in the cage with one Barry Lamar Bonds on Tuesday. He had a single in three at-bats the next day, and went 2-for-4 tonight. Afterward, Crawford said he hasn’t forgotten Bonds’ advice.
“He talked to me a lot about my front shoulder, so I’m really trying to keep it closed a little bit more. I think I’m doing a pretty good job of that. I have a couple line drives up the middle and the other way now. That was kind of the idea when talking to him,” said Crawford.
— I didn’t shoot many photos today, but when Derek Law came in I felt like I should take advantage.
Law came in with one out and a runner on after Jose De Paula gave up the tying runs in the eighth. He struck out Michael Choice and got Bryan Petersen to ground out to get out of the jam.
— Tonight was an instant-replay game, and Bruce Bochy won his challenge on a close play at first base where Juan Perez was originally called out in the second inning. Ron Washington tried his hand in the third when Elvis Andrus was called out at first, but the call was upheld. Bochy beats Washington again.
— The replay specialist, at least during this game: Shawon Dunston, who was outside the park in a trailer — or “booth,” as Bochy described it — watching the game with a walkie-talkie in case of a close play. Bochy said they need to “work out the kinks,” but one would imagine they’ll have an easier time diagnosing which plays should be challenged within the 30-second time limit with all the different camera angles and replays shown on most broadcasts.
— In the press box they announced the time each replay took to complete. The first one lasted 90 seconds, the second one took a minute and 22 seconds. There was another replay in the eighth on Petersen’s groundout, but I was down on the field so I don’t know how long that one took.
— When I talked to Roger Kieschnick this afternoon, he said he was excited for the opportunity to hit fourth (he replaced Mike Morse, who was scratched due to a calf strain). He was 1-for-18 with nine strikeouts coming in, and went down on strikes in his first at-bat. But in his second, with runners on first and second with two outs in the third inning, he hit a 92-mph inside fastball into left-center to score the game’s first run. Kieschnick ended up going 2-for-5 with three strikeouts.
— That hit was preceded by a 10-pitch walk to Pablo Sandoval, who also drilled an 0-2 pitch into center for a single. Both the walk and single came from the right side of the plate. Sandoval looks really good this Spring. If the Giants want to lock him up before the season starts, the extension is going to be costly.
— At the risk of being the “in case you missed it” guy, I asked a question to Buster Posey this afternoon, and next thing I knew I was showing him the photos I took of his home run swing and follow-through on Tuesday. Posey was in a great mood as he showed Hensley Meulens the photos and chatted with Barry Bonds in the clubhouse. Yep, life is good when it’s 80 degrees every day and you’re hitting .450 in the Cactus League.