SAN FRANCISCO Giants manager Bruce Bochy was concernedabout Ryan Vogelsong.
Bochy knew what a second consecutive All-Star selectionwould mean to him. He knew the validation it would bring.
He knew Vogelsong was about to get snubbed.
So he called the ultra-intense right-hander into his officeas soon as he arrived at AT&T Park on Sunday morning, and delivered thenews. In the hours before he took the ball against the Cincinnati Reds,Vogelsong flipped a clubhouse television to the selection show.
He watched thewhole thing anyway.
He knew his name wouldnt be called. It wasnt.
But maybe that was all part of his routine.
Vogelsong went out and pitched like he always does breathing fire, and with a sizable chip on his shoulder. He held the Reds tothree hits, a walk and a hit batter in seven innings, and although the Giantsblew his decision in the ninth, they accepted a gift from right fielder JayBruce while rallying for a draining, 4-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
Vogelsong still could be named as an All-Star injuryreplacement. So could left-hander Madison Bumgarner. But listening to Vogelsongtalk, its clear his chance at validation has passed.
Shouldve pitched better, he said, with a flash in hiseyes as if he was still on the mound, still trying to throw the ball throughBuster Poseys glove.
Does the snub thicken up that chip on his shoulder?
Absolutely, came the swift reply. What it does issolidify what I told you (last month) in Anaheim. People dont take meseriously.
Last year, Bochy was the NL skipper and said his greatestAll-Star moment was to reward Vogelsong, who had gone five years without appearingin a big league game only to become a breakout success with the team that hadtraded him a decade earlier.
You heard the talk last year, that the only reason I gotthere was because of Boch, Vogelsong said. Some of that is probably true. Theother part is I was having a pretty good first half.
He is having a better half now. Vogelsongs 2.26 ERA is thelowest on the staff and tied for fourth lowest in the NL. He has thrown qualitystarts in 14 of 15 outings. He yields almost nothing at AT&T Park, where helets the sellout crowds stoke his passion on the mound.
That passion boiled over in the sixth inning, after Redsright-hander Bronson Arroyo brushed back Vogelsong twice as he tried to getdown a sacrifice bunt. Vogelsong glared at the mound after the first one puthim in the dirt. After the second one, he took two steps toward Arroyo, slammedhis bat and screamed a few choice words that an amateur lip reader might havedeciphered thusly: Vacuum bush league! What the fork are youre doing?
Benches cleared but no punches were thrown. Once order wasrestored, Vogelsong put down a successful bunt and Arroyo said something to himas he jogged back to the dugout.
He said, My bad, Vogelsong said.
Arroyo called Vogelsong after the game to apologize.
Well, I know he wasnt trying to hit me, so lets get thatout of the way, Vogelsong said. Bronson and I are friends. We played togetherin Pittsburgh. But when youre on the field between the lines, youre notfriends anymore.
Its not the first time Vogelsong reacted angrily tobrushback pitches. Last year in Florida, he slammed his bat and yelled at BurkeBadenhop after consecutive inside pitches, including one that struck him on thetriceps.
I dont think they were trying to hit me at all, Vogelsongsaid after that game last year. It just got me mad. I mean, I dont have anextra-base hit. I dont have a hit in two months.
(The most memorable part of that day was the reactionMarlins manager Jack McKeon, who called Vogelsong Volkswagen and said theright-hander overreacted. Hes lucky he didnt have to face Drysdale or Gibsonand get a haircut and a shave right quick, McKeon said.)
This time, Vogelsong heard Arroyos apology on the field.But he didnt break stride or turn his head to acknowledge it.
When the balls up and in, its not a good feeling, hesaid. It just happened. Hes battling. Youre battling. You just get fired up. Im still a little flustered, in case you cant tell.
Slights, real and imagined, are like ethanol in Vogelsongstank.
Still, Bochy would like to see Vogelsong wear an All-Staruniform again. Thats why he plans to keep in the ear of major leagueofficials, pumping up Vogelsong as a replacement pick.
There are other deserving snubs, though. Theres the MetsJohan Santana, the Reds Johnny Cueto and the Pirates James McDonald.
Its not over yet, Bochy said.
No, its not. Vogelsong said he needs to pitch better in thesecond half to prove last year wasnt a fluke. He knows that wont be enough,either.
Ill probably pitch with a chip on my shoulder for the restof my career, he said.
Given a choice between he and Bumgarner, though, Vogelsongwould rather the 22-year-old lefty become a first-time All-Star.
If it wouldve come down to me and him, Id definitely wanthim to go, Vogelsong said. Its amazing and Im excited for Buster and Melkyto get that experience. I wouldve wanted (Bumgarner) to go.
But I wish I wish we couldve both gone.