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SAN FRANCISCO – Ryan Vogelsong knows exactly how he’ll celebrate his one-year reunion with the Giants, which became official when he passed a physical on Wednesday.
With a red-eye flight back home to Pennsylvania, a bowl of oatmeal and a 10 a.m. workout.
“Let’s just say the chip is firmly placed on my shoulder,” said Vogelsong, acknowledging he was upset when the Giants declined his $6.5 million option last month. “And they know that.”
There were an awful lot of extra dance steps for two parties that eventually circled back to a $5 million guarantee and incentives that could push the total value of the contract as high as $7.5 million. Vogelsong keeps the $300,000 buyout from the declined option as well.
But this is the same fiery right-hander who tunes into talk radio and hopes to hear callers badmouth him. Those are the logs that burn hottest on his hearth. So maybe the way this negotiation played out will end up working to everyone’s benefit.
The Giants certainly need Vogelsong to be successful, since they’re bringing back four-fifths of a rotation that ranked 13th out of 15 NL clubs in ERA last season. Vogelsong was the worst of the bunch, going 4-6 with a 5.73 ERA in 19 starts – a miserable run that included a broken hand and a likely hangover from his participation in the World Baseball Classic.
But Giants GM Brian Sabean said he hadn’t lost faith that Vogelsong could return to his inspirational, All-Star form – and after he stopped breathing flames, the right-hander came to the conclusion that San Francisco still felt like the right place for him.
“When the option got declined, I was upset and more hurt than anything else,” Vogelsong said. “But after taking a couple days and gathering myself and reading between the lines a bit personally, I felt San Francisco and this family here was the best place for me.”
Vogelsong had the most contact with the Phillies, which offered the opportunity to play a 40-minute drive from his home. The Braves, Rangers, Royals and Twins also expressed interest.
“But it led back to conversations with the Giants and that fact alone told me this is where I was supposed to be,” Vogelsong said. “I was just hoping at the end of the day we were able to make things work and I’m glad it did.”
Vogelsong won’t have to compete for his rotation spot, Sabean said. The job is his, and the Giants are no longer in the market to sign another free-agent starter to a major league contract. You can rule out Bronson Arroyo and his brethren. Sabean didn’t give the indication he’s glued to the latest posting rules as they’ll pertain to Matsuhiro Tanaka, either.
Sabean said his intent was never to part ways with Vogelsong.
“Because of the nature of the business and the timing being such, it was in our best interests to not pick up the option and to secure another starter,” said Sabean, who signed Tim Hudson as his first major act.
Sabean lauded Vogelsong’s competitiveness and said the 36-year-old should rebound.
“There’s nothing wrong with him physically, nothing wrong with his arm and mentally he’s sharp,” Sabean said. “It just took some time to go through the hoops.”
Vogelsong still had some swelling in his hand at the end of last season but said it had healed fully and was a non-issue, other than the fact he does some extra strengthening exercises. He’s also working on increasing his flexibility, which as everyone knows, erodes as you get older.
He isn’t ready to pin all his troubles last season on the World Baseball Classic, but as he told me last September, he plans to come out “like gangbusters and then we can blame last year on the WBC.”
“There’s only two things that matter,” Vogelsong said. “One is to try to make myself better every day this winter, and two, once spring training and April comes, it’s to win. That’s all that matters to me at this point.”
And if he hits all his incentives, and ends up making more money than the original option?
“This deal isn’t about ego and money for me,” he said. “Being mad never gets anything accomplished.”
Except when he’s on the mound, obviously.