The Return of Ryan Vogelsong

2013 didn’t exactly go the way that we Giants fans had hoped.

Coming off of their second World Series win in three years, last year’s team finished a disappointing 76-86, tied with San Diego for third in the National League West. They’ve never been known as an offensive powerhouse, so perhaps the most surprising aspect of the season was the way the starting pitching struggled. San Francisco starters finished the season with a 4.37 ERA, seventh-highest in baseball. As a staff, they also allowed 106 homeruns and 332 walks.

“Last year, I thought we were dead, to be quite honest,” pitching coach Dave Righetti stated. “It was just a natural thing teams go through…Four years of grinding, every game meant something. All of a sudden, it was slipping from us physically, and we weren’t able to stay in touch.”

Right hander Ryan Vogelsong was perhaps the starter that struggled the most. He finished 4-6 with a 5.73 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP. In just 19 starts, Vogey allowed 15 homeruns and 38 walks. For Giants fans who’d just watched him pitch lights-out during the World Series run of 2012, it was shocking to see Vogelsong struggle so mightily. It wasn’t easy for him, either.

“I was really more tired than I thought I was last year. I don’t want to blame it on anything, other than I just didn’t pitch the way I needed to pitch.”

Vogelsong’s contract was up at the end of last season, and the Giants front office declined his option, leaving him a free agent. It came as a surprise to the pitcher and his family, but it provided a bit of a wake-up call.

“As upset as I was about it at the very beginning, the more the days went by, the more I knew that this was really where I wanted to be.”

Luckily, Vogelsong and the Giants were able to reach a one-year, $5 million dollar deal on December 4th, rounding out the 2014 rotation. Both sides were happy to be back together, and Righetti says that it isn’t just because of their friendship.

“Everybody’s gonna think I’m happy because we’ve been around each other so many years, and that’s partly true, but I wanna win,” Righetti laughs. “I’m a Giants fan, too, and I’m a coach, and I have an obligation. I think he’s got it in him.”

Vogelsong will be looking to prove that he does, in fact, have it in him. After suffering through a bad back in 2012, a broken hand in 2013, and a decrease in flexibility the past few seasons, the righty spent the offseason doing yoga, pilates, and strength training, as well as improving his shoulder. Vogey says that he’s tried everything that he possibly can to get better.

“Everything that you would think goes with that, I’m doing it or have tried it. And just along with that, the normal strengthening program that they have us on…At this point in time, I feel like I’ve really kind of turned over every stone that I think I can to try and have a better season.”

Righetti knows first-hand how competitive Vogelsong is, and he’s ready to see him bounce back from a rough 2013.

“Any one of your guys gets hurt, and kind of the way he did, too, for them to get a second shot at this – you want it to be with you…He’s always motivated. He’s always worked hard, maybe he won’t have to overwork. He had to do so much extra training just to get back into shape, and it takes a lot out of you. So, I think we’ll see a different guy regardless.”

For Vogelsong and his family, returning to San Francisco was the clear choice, and he’s ready to pitch in the black and orange again.
“At this point in my career I just want to be treated fairly, and I’m not looking to make the most money or get the biggest contract…and being somewhere where I felt like I was wanted…Obviously [Sabean] and [Bochy] and [Righetti] and the whole coaching staff here was a big part of why I came back. You know, and the fans, and my family – we really love it here.”

It’s safe to say that the feeling is mutual, Vogey.

Plus, who doesn’t love a good comeback?