OAKLAND –- If Stephen Vogt surprised you with a couple of his plays in right field Thursday night, it seems that Vogt surprised himself a bit too.
But that’s what it’s all about for a player whose fight to prove he belongs on the A’s 25-man roster never really ends.
Vogt, a catcher by job description, was in the middle of a lot that went right for Oakland in a 4-2 win over the Boston Red Sox. The A’s got a big lift from a couple of marquee guys, starting pitcher Scott Kazmir and left fielder Yoenis Cespedes in particular. But there was Vogt, doing his part to chip in and proving how well he fits in on a roster that prides itself on versatility.
He drove in two of the A’s first three runs and is now hitting .341 since being recalled from the minors June 1. But it was his early-inning work in right field that opened everyone’s eyes –- even his own.
“I’m starting to get a lot more comfortable in the outfield,” Vogt said. “Playing four days in a row out there now, I’ve been fortunate enough to make a couple plays. I don’t really know how, but I just did it. It’s starting to become more natural.”
Vogt was selling himself a bit short, because he does have prior outfield experience from his days in Tampa Bay’s farm system. But it was still surprising when he made a long run in the first inning and completed a sliding catch along the right field foul line on Xander Bogaerts’ shallow fly. In the second, he ranged right to cut off A.J. Pierzynski’s base hit and fired a strike to second from deep in the gap to hold Pierzynski to a single.
“If you watch him during batting practice,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said, “he's out there taking balls off the bat, he's working with (outfield coach) Tye (Waller) on angles off the wall. Then his throwing arm, being a catcher, shows up on some other plays. We have him in there for his bat, but he's shown he can handle the position, too.”
Vogt is 10 for 25 (.400) over his last eight games and he’s collected 10 RBI in 14 games total since his call-up. The A’s have an interesting decision on their hands as regular right fielder Josh Reddick nears a return from a hyperextended knee. Vogt, who was among the final cuts of spring training, is one of three catchers currently on the roster. It would seem he’s a candidate to be sent back down.
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But given how he’s contributing, he’s making a strong case for sticking around. Reddick went 1-for-3 with a double Thursday in his second rehab game for Triple-A Sacramento. A tentative plan would have him returning to the active roster Tuesday against the New York Mets.
Vogt gave the A’s a 1-0 lead in the second inning Thursday with a run-scoring groundout. After Cespedes clubbed his 14th homer in the third, Vogt made it 3-0 in the fourth when he looped a single into center that scored Jed Lowrie.
That was enough for Kazmir (9-2), who has been marvelous in his first season with Oakland. He went seven innings, his only mistake coming on Dustin Pedroia’s two-run homer in the sixth, struck out eight and walked none. He ranks second in the American League in ERA (2.08), opponents’ batting average (.203) and WHIP (0.95), and he’s third in wins (nine).
“The mix of pitches, the plus and minus on the fastball, in and out, he’s been terrific,” Melvin said. “It's a broken record talking about him because we're seeing basically the same game out of him.”
Kazmir’s work Thursday caught the attention of a certain corner outfielder who provided an assist with his defense.
“So impressive,” Vogt said of Kazmir. “It’s a better view behind the plate, but it’s a nice view from right field too.”