SAN FRANCISCO – What do you do when your inspirational 35-year-old right-hander has a 7.78 ERA through seven starts?
Do you skip his turn? Do you give him more time to work on the side? Do you tell him to back off between starts? Or do you simply hand him the ball and keep the faith?
Those are the Giants’ realistic options with Ryan Vogelsong. After he failed to survive the fifth inning in a 6-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves Thursday night, all of them might be on the table.
[RECAP: Braves 6, Giants 3]
Giants manager Bruce Bochy didn’t rule any of them out, that’s for sure.
“These are things we’ll talk about internally,” Bochy said. “Right now I’m not ready to discuss that. He’s healthy. We have options, we’ll leave it at that.”
The Giants cannot skip Vogelsong, but they could use Monday’s day off to shuffle their rotation and push back his next start by three days. Instead of taking the mound Wednesday at Toronto, they could give him the ball May 18 at Coors Field. The benefit would be an extra bullpen session to figure out why he’s giving up so many hits with runners on base and why lineups are bashing him upon third look.
But as Bochy said, “If anything, he might work too hard at times.”
Besides, it’s clear Vogelsong wants the ball. Asked if he expects to start on his turn, his three-word reply left no room for interpretation.
“Why wouldn’t I?” he said.
Vogelsong knows what the numbers look like: An ERA that is the highest in the National League against qualified starting pitchers, a fifth inning in which he’s surrendered 14 of his 36 runs, and more than anything, a .417 opponent’s average with runners in scoring position.
They hit just .227 off him with runners in scoring position last year.
“I got away with a few those first couple innings, some pop-ups, which here you expect,” he said. “It just seems lately when it starts going bad, they hit the bad ones and the good ones too.
“I feel really close. That’s dangerous to say, because I know if I throw another bad one … But I feel close rather than further away.”
Vogelsong insisted stamina and health are not issues, even saying ruefully that he wished he had some physical malady he could blame for his struggles.
“I really shouldn’t say that,” he said, as his superstitious streak leaked out.
He hasn’t changed his routine – no rally lasagna yet – and has no plans to do anything drastic.
And although he hasn’t been as stubborn with runners on base, he remained just as intractable off the mound. He is still the same person who endured Tommy John surgery, competed on three continents, received his Triple-A release papers and went six years between major league victories.
“It’s a tough game sometimes and it beats you down,” he said. “I’ve been through it and I’ve come out on the other side and I’ll do that again.
“I came through it after 13 years. I came through it in August of 2011. I came through it after August and September of 2012 and I’ll come through it again this year.”