BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — There was no excited buzz around Pittsburgh in December when the Pirates signed pitcher Ryan Vogelsong.
There were plenty of anxious murmurs, though, and manager Clint Hurdle heard them.
“I’ve heard a lot of, ‘Man, you should’ve gone out and gotten somebody better,'” Hurdle said.
Vogelsong, who will turn 39 in July, went 9-11 with a 4.67 ERA with the San Francisco Giants in 2015. He wasn’t able to hold onto a starting spot and ended up making a third of his 33 appearances as a reliever.
With a hole to fill at the back of their rotation, the Pirates signed Vogelsong for $2 million. The one-year deal includes up to $3 million in performance bonuses.
“We believe he’s still got the skills to perform at a very functional level,” Hurdle said. “He’s got an edge and a hunger to his game that’s real. That’s something we like to use for his good and for the collective good of the club.”
The right-hander arrived at training camp last week carrying the same equipment bag he used in 2006, the final year of Vogelsong’s first stint with the Pirates.
“I’ve come to realize that you don’t close doors,” Vogelsong said. “Did I ever think I’d ever come back here? Honestly, no. But when the opportunity was there, I was really excited about it.”
Vogelsong had a bumpy ride with the Pirates early in his career. He blew out his elbow after his second start in 2001. While pitching in the minors in 2003, he developed Bell’s palsy, which causes temporary paralysis of the face.
He made it back to the majors in 2004, but pitched poorly for some awful Pirates teams. After collecting just 10 wins in 103 appearances, Vogelsong was released after the 2006 season.
Vogelsong pitched three seasons in Japan, then got a minor league contract back in the United States. He returned in 2011 to the Giants, who had drafted him 13 years earlier and notched 13 victories. In 2012, Vogelsong helped the Giants win the World Series.
Being exiled to the bullpen last year signaled that Vogelsong’s run with San Francisco was over. He hopes to rejuvenate his career by working with Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage, whom he first met while in the Pirates’ farm system more than a decade ago.
“Ray’s track record with turning some guys around is amazing,” Vogelsong said.
Pirates catcher Chris Stewart crossed paths with Vogelsong in 2011, when they were with the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate in Fresno. What struck Stewart the most about Vogelsong was his work ethic.
“He was never not ready for a situation,” Stewart said. “I think he’s still got that same mind set. Maybe we’ll make a few tweaks physically to get him back to where he was before. He’s determined to do whatever he needs to do to win. He’s confident out there.”
NOTES: Jameson Taillon will start for the Black team in Monday’s intrasquad scrimmage. Taillon, who missed the past two years due to elbow and hernia surgeries, will work two innings. Tyler Glasnow, the top-rated prospect in the Pirates’ farm system, will pitch the first two innings for the Gold team.