SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Ryan Vogelsong hadnt stepped on a moundsince he strained his lower back in the weight room a month ago. As he toed therubber Thursday morning, you couldnt blame him for wanting to take it easy.
No, really. You couldnt blame him.
I was letting it go, said Vogelsong, after his 25-pitchsession. I threw everything. I dont dial back in bullpens, ever. I dontduring the season. I never have, never will.
I throw my bullpens like Im pitching in a game. I want toget after it. Thats the way I pitch.
Almost halfway through spring training, Vogelsong isstarting from scratch. Any more setbacks would make it difficult for him to be readyfor the season-opening rotation.
Although Vogelsong was confident enough in his lower back tothrow at full intensity, he isnt making any pronouncements about being readyfor the season.
I quit asking, he said. Im not making the schedule. Ivetried not to be a pain in the butt, always asking, Whats next? Whats next? Justshow up, do what Im supposed to do and take it from there.
Vogelsong doesnt expect any more setbacks, though.
I wasnt too concerned about it, to be honest, aftereverything weve done, said Vogelsong, who did so many core and rotationalexercises that he probably had dreams about them. Weve tested it pretty good.
I was more curious about how my pitches were going to comeout, and it was better than I thought it would be, but not by a lot. Thelocation was pretty good for not throwing off a mound for a month.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy has said Vogelsong could buildarm strength quickly, since he did plenty of throwing before his back went outwhile doing power squats. The injury was significant enough to warrant an anti-inflammatory injection, but Vogelsong hasn't required any follow-up shots.
Vogelsong, 34, was an inspirational first-time All-Star lastseason. His 2.71 ERA led the Giants rotation and ranked fourth in the NationalLeague. His return to form is critical for a team expected to win behind its pitching and defense.
If Vogelsong isnt ready to open as the No.4 starter, theGiants could turn to left-handers Brian Burres or Eric Surkamp. Since thatwould give the club left-handers in the Nos. 3-5 slots, the club would move upleft-hander Madison Bumgarner into the No.2 slot between Tim Lincecum and MattCain.
The Giants open April 6 at Arizona, but a fifth starterwouldnt be absolutely necessary until April 15.