ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Giants manager Bruce Bochy huddled up with pitching coach Dave Righetti and bullpen coach Mark Gardner for a long time in his office Sunday morning.
The topic: Ryan Vogelsong, and when to return him to the rotation.
Would a smooth rehab outing for Double-A Richmond convince the Giants to activate Vogelsong and hand him the baseball on Friday?
Well, actually ...
“I wouldn’t mind seeing him have to pitch in a little traffic, to be honest,” Bochy said. “Pitch in stress. Have a long inning.”
Before he was hit by a pitch that crushed his pinky finger in May, Vogelsong did not pitch well in long innings. Opponents were hitting .381 against him with two outs and runners in scoring position (and .419 overall with RISP).
In 2012, he held opponents to a .208 average with two outs and runners in scoring position. It was an ultra-stingy .153 in his breakout 2011 season.
Bochy, Righetti and Gardner didn’t need to spitball for long to come up with a theory for the difference this year.
“The question with the WBC is going to come up,” Bochy said of the World Baseball Classic, for which Vogelsong served as Team USA’s No. 2 starter. “He did crank it up early. Whether that took a toll on him, you don’t know. If anyone could answer that … I don’t know. It might have.”
Vogelsong started twice in the tournament and was kept on a strict pitch limit. But he had to arrive in camp as if he were ready for the season, and that’s after pitching through three rounds of the postseason just a few months earlier.
These will be an important final two months for Vogelsong, who has a 7.19 ERA in nine starts. He need only be competitive down the stretch this year for the Giants to pick up their $6.5 million option on him.
“The cost is affordable,” GM Brian Sabean told me.
If the Giants decide to give Vogelsong one more rehab start, Bochy said it would be for Triple-A Fresno. Part of the decision might hinge on how Guillermo Moscoso does in his first start as a Giant Sunday, too.
On Friday, Bochy slid Roger Kieschnick in the No. 5 spot between Buster Posey and Hunter Pence. He did the same thing with Brandon Belt on Sunday.
He said he wants to split up his left-handers and might stay with that alignment against right-handed starters.
But another part of that reasoning might be the fact that Pence, for all his prodigious power displays in batting practice, has hit just one home run since June 30.