Vogt discusses unique situation of three-catcher platoon
OAKLAND – The misery of 13-hour bus rides in the minor leagues will stick with Stephen Vogt forever. Right now, the Oakland A’s catcher is busy making happier memories.
Vogt, a 28-year-old rookie, finds himself an integral player on a division-winning team that’s preparing to open the American League Division Series on Friday. It’s more than Vogt would have dreamed possible while spending most of six seasons in the minor leagues.
Most of that time was spent in the lower levels of the Tampa Bay Rays organization, where he was shuffling between positions and getting caught in the logjam of top prospects shooting through the system.
“The one thing I learned on my road that I wish I could tell everybody, is you just never know when your opportunity is gonna arise,” Vogt said after Wednesday’s workout. “There were many times when I thought I was done, or I thought it was gonna take a miracle for things to kind of turn around.”
Vogt was a 12th-round pick of the Rays out of Azusa Pacific University in 2007. A serious shoulder injury wiped out most of his 2009 season, and he found himself back with Single-A Charlotte in 2010 at age 25.
He finally cracked the bigs in 2012, making the Rays’ opening day roster, but he appeared in just 18 games over three stints with Tampa Bay. Vogt went 0 for 25 while with the Rays, becoming just the second major league player since 1990 to go hitless through his first 25 career at-bats (former Athletic Chris Carter was 0 for 33 in 2010).
But Vogt was traded to the A’s in April and soon began tearing up Triple-A pitching in the Pacific Coast League. He led all of the minors in batting for much of April and was called up in late June.
Vogt finally notched his first big league hit in memorable fashion – he homered against St. Louis on June 28 to end a string of 32 hitless at-bats. He finished the regular season hitting .252 with four homers and 16 RBI in 47 games. Those stats may not impress, but Vogt stabilized the A’s catcher position after John Jaso suffered a concussion in July and Derek Norris broke a toe in August.
“When we had injuries, the opportunity came up for him and he’s come up and done a great job for us,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s a grinder, a hard worker. He’s very appreciative of his opportunity here and taking advantage of it.”
As a left-handed hitter, there’s a good chance Vogt sees lots of playing time in the ALDS as the Detroit Tigers will start four right-handed pitchers. The A’s are carrying three catchers for this series. Norris will get his share of playing time, and Kurt Suzuki – re-acquired in August -- often comes in for late-game defense.
Vogt worked hard to learn the A’s pitching staff once he was promoted, a fact that isn’t lost on his teammates.
“He’s really earned a lot of people’s respect for his work ethic and the attitude he has toward the game,” Doolittle said. “He took a long road to get here, for sure. It’s one of those feel-good stories, but it’s even better because it’s not like he was just up here for a little bit. He’s one of the main contributors to this team.”
The ALDS is a far cry from a playoff series Vogt played in with Triple-A Durham while with the Rays. Durham fell behind 2-0 in the series, then took a 13-hour bus ride to Columbus, Ohio, lost the deciding third game and climbed right back on the bus and rode 13 hours back.
“Hopefully I never have to go through anything like that again,” Vogt said with a smile.
The Visalia native took family trips to the Bay Area to attend Giants games during their 2002 run to the World Series. Now Vogt relishes his opportunity to help the A’s get that far.
“It hasn’t particularly sunk in yet,” Vogt said. “I don’t think it will until after this whirlwind is over and I get to sit back and really think about this whole season. As much as it’s a cliche, you really try to live in the moment.”