GLENDALE, Ariz. – Ryan Vogelsong brought a pristine 0.00 ERA into his final World Baseball Classic tune-up Monday against the Chicago White Sox. He added three more scoreless innings before running into trouble in the fourth and leaving the Giants to join the American team that will play its first game of the international tournament on March 8.
The 35-year-old righty, who will be the No. 2 starter for Team USA behind knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, struck out three over his first three innings, but allowed the first three batters of the fourth to reach base before Bruce Bochy saw enough.
Handed a 1-0 lead before he stepped on the mound at Camelback Ranch thanks to a solo home run from Joaquin Arias, Vogelsong allowed a two-out single to former Giant Jeff Keppinger before striking out Adam Dunn looking to end the first.
Vogelsong was at his best in the second inning, inducing a routine ground ball to short and punching out both Dayan Viciendo and Dewayne Wise for a quick 1-2-3 frame.
“My location’s been pretty good,” Vogelsong said when asked about his three strikeouts. “I think that’s helping a little.”
White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers led off the third with a weak dribbler back to the mound that Vogelsong bobbled for an error and centerfielder Blake Tekkote hit a one-out single to create the first Chicago threat of the afternoon. But Vogelsong got Alexi Ramirez to hit a grounder to Kensuke Tanaka at short for an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
Bochy sent Vogelsong back out for the fourth inning, the first time a Giants starter has received that honor this spring, but gave him the hook after Keppinger singled and stole second, Dunn walked, and Paul Konerko singled to put the White Sox on the board.
“I just lost my tempo there a little bit out of the stretch but everything else was good,” Vogelsong said.
The large contingent of Giants fans that made the trip to Glendale gave Vogelsong a nice ovation as he returned to the dugout. Left-hander Josh Osich got the call to clean up Vogelsong’s mess and allowed both his inherited runners to score when Wise hit a controversial home run to left.
Giants supporters down the left-field line didn’t like the call of a fair ball and Bochy said he initially believed it was foul.
“Bullpen said it went off the pole,” Bochy said. “I thought it went foul but it’s hard to see.”
Bochy also said he was impressed that Vogelsong felt and looked good working deep into a spring game as he reached his predetermined limit of 60 pitches.
“[Pitching coach Dave Righetti] and I were talking about it and we let him go,” Bochy said. “[Vogelsong] said he still felt fine so we let him go. So that makes us even more comfortable with him leaving now.”
Before opening the tournament against the Mexican team on March 8, Team USA will return to Camelback Ranch to take on the White Sox on Tuesday.
Vogelsong will have to wait until his team's second game on March 9 against Italy to return to the mound and said he has some work to do in the meantime.
“I feel like I’m close [mentally],” Vogelsong said. “I could probably be a little bit better, but I got another week here to get ready for that. I’m about where I want to be.”
What stood out as needing work after he unraveled a bit in the fourth inning?
“Concentration. More making adjustments on the fly. I think I didn’t really do that to well in the fourth inning. I felt like I lost some rhythm out of the stretch and really didn’t make the adjustment quick enough.”
Once he finished with his self-assessment, Vogelsong turned his attention to the World Baseball Classic and how excited he is to represent his country, which has yet to make the finals. Japan emerged victorious in both the 2006 and 2009 tournaments.
“They call it our national pastime and we haven’t fared so well in the first two,” Vogelsong said. “Our obligation is to go out and show people that this is our game and be the best team we can be for the next two weeks.”
There’s a chance Vogelsong could stare down teammates like Pablo Sandoval, Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan if the teams from America, Venezuela and Puerto Rico advance to the second round in Miami. Giants minor league catcher Tyler LaTorre will be on the Italian team Vogelsong is scheduled to face in the first round.
When asked which of his teammates he’d most like to face in the WBC, Vogelsong didn’t express a preference .
“All of them. That’s a fun part of it. It will just be fun to go head-to-head with them.”
He did, however, share his gameplan for facing Sandoval.
“Right down the middle…or one at his ear,” Vogelsong said with a wry smile.
Before the IOC removed baseball as an Olympic sport, Vogelsong said he used to follow Team USA closely, especially in 2000, when close friend and former teammate in the Giants’ farm system Kurt Ainsworth was part of an American team that won gold in Sydney, Australia.
After making three starts under the bright Arizona sun, Vogelsong said he’s ready to perform in primetime.
“We’re going to be playing night games and that changes things. You get underneath the lights and it’s a totally different atmosphere. I started getting excited when I was watching the other games on TV the other day. You can just feel the intensity even just watching the games on TV. So I’m really looking forward to it.”