SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Ryan Vogelsong will be the No. 2 starter for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, and he’s putting a little extra into his bullpen workouts to ensure he’ll be ready.
Bruce Bochy spoke with Team USA manager Joe Torre, who informed the Giants’ skipper that he planned to pitch Vogelsong in the second game March 9 against Italy at Chase Field in Phoenix. Among the players Vogelsong could face is Giants minor league catcher Tyler La Torre, who will be part of the Italian roster
Vogelsong won’t have to be stretched out to 100 pitches by then. But he’ll need to be prepared for an intensity level far beyond a split-squad game at Surprise. He certainly looked to be taking it seriously as he extended his mound session several minutes beyond the other pitchers in his group.
“They’ll have pitch limits that makes sense for all the guys who are going,” Bochy said. “This is a great opportunity for Ryan and one he really wanted. With all he’s been through, this is an honor for him and we’re happy for him. It’s a pretty amazing story, what he’s been able to achieve as an All Star and now a World Series in which he was so instrumental for us.”
Bochy was asked if he had a Plan B for first base, should Brandon Belt get hurt or fall in a massive slump. Bochy mentioned the possibility of moving Pablo Sandoval to first base and playing Joaquin Arias, but he made it clear that he won’t have a trigger finger if Belt struggles. He’s the first baseman.
The Giants have a number of candidates for the No.5 outfielder job, including Roger Kieschnick and Francisco Peguero among players in their system. But don’t forget about Cole Gillespie, who was once a well-regarded prospect who got some time with the Diamondbacks in 2011. He had hip surgery to remove bone spurs and repair a labrum tear last year, but he’s five months removed from that procedure and said he feels stronger than ever after all the rehab work.
Gillespie, 28, can play all three outfield positions but acknowledged that right field at AT&T Park wasn’t the easiest experience when he played there in the past. Nothing he couldn’t figure out given some time to practice catching flies, though.
Gillespie also hopes he can reunite with Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford again. They were teammates a few years ago with Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League.
Gillespie said he had interest from the Mets and Rays but signed a minor league deal with the Giants because they were his favorite team while growing up in the Portland, Ore. area. Having lived for a time in Eugene, I do have an appreciation for the Giants’ popularity up there – as well as an appreciation for the wonder that is Voodoo Donuts.
A lot was made of the catching talent in camp last year, but now Hector Sanchez has graduated to the big leagues, Tommy Joseph was dealt to Philly for Hunter Pence and Andrew Susac’s prospect star has dimmed a bit following a humbling year at Single-A San Jose.
Susac might have to repeat the Cal League, but his tools are no less impressive. Bochy said he liked the adjustments Susac has made to cut down his stride and keep his weight back. He also thought that Susac, a product of Jesuit High in Sacramento, got stronger in the offseason.
It’s obvious this will be a loose camp, and it starts with the manager. When one of the catchers dropped a popup from the machine in a drill Thursday, everyone giggled – including videographer Matt McGee, who was filming some B roll.
Bochy immediately said, “Oh, if you think it’s so easy, you try it.”
Bochy was serious. McGee proceeded to grab a glove, stumble like a newborn fawn under the sky-high popup, then fall down. He didn’t catch the second one, either, but at least he kept his feet.
Every other group working on the back field stopped to watch, and all had a good laugh – including McGee.