The A’s will be carrying three catchers in the first round of the American League Division Series.
That one of them is Stephen Vogt is not a surprise at this point, Vogt having more than proved himself since … well, since almost being out of baseball earlier this year.
He was in spring training with Tampa Bay, but the Rays didn’t have a spot for someone who was 0-for-25 as a rookie in 2012. The A’s picked him up for a few bucks at a point in April where the Rays seemed destined to cut him loose.
The A’s didn’t need a catcher in the big leagues at the time, not with John Jaso and Derek Norris doing the work at in Oakland and Luke Montz, who would eventually make his way to Oakland, starting the season catching at Triple-A Sacramento. Still, Vogt didn’t cost much, and the A’s are all about acquiring talent whenever they can.
To say that it turned out to be fortuitous is to understate things dramatically. Vogt came up for a brief spell in June, long enough to collect his first big league hit, then went back to the minors for almost four weeks before coming up for good.
Jaso was hurt. Shortly thereafter, so was Norris. For one 24-hour period, Vogt was just about the only healthy catcher in the organization because not only Jaso and Norris were hurt, but Montz was on the minor league disabled list at the same time. That’s why the A’s traded for last year’s catcher, Kurt Suzuki.
But Suzuki wouldn’t play nearly as much as Vogt. No one would. Vogt is a left-handed hitter, and with Jaso out for over two months, Vogt was the only lefty hitting catcher the A’s had. And the A’s platoon was built around having a left-handed hitting catcher to call on against right-handed starting pitching.
Then Vogt, a career .299 minor league hitters with a little power – 44 homers in six years – learned the A’s pitchers, started hitting a bit and played the role as if it was made for him. Now there’s a chance that he will start all four games of the ALDS because the Tigers will start four right-handed pitchers.
“It’s very exciting and pretty crazy,’’ Vogt said. “It’s 100 percent surreal, coming from where I was six months ago, even four months ago.’’
Vogt finished up the season hitting .252 with four homers and 16 RBIs. Those aren’t going to get him on an All-Star team, but he was a tough out and the pitchers liked the way he called a game.
“It didn’t take long for him to catch on,’’ starting pitcher Jarrod Parker said. “He picked everything up real quick.’’
For now, possibly no one in the playoffs has gone from outhouse to penthouse quite like Vogt.
“Physically, I’m prepared,’’ he said. “Mentally I’m prepared. I’ve never done anything like this in my life. But all we’ve got to do is go and win some baseball games.’’
And that’s something Vogt has proven adept at. The A’s have won 27 of the 40 games he’s started, and that .675 winning percentage secures his spot in the starting lineup.
–The A’s will have something resembling a simulated game Wednesday at the Coliseum.
While Tuesday was given over to coaches throwing batting practice to hitters, the A’s want to keep their pitchers sharp. So Game 4 starter Dan Straily, among others, will get on the mound and throw.
“It’s been a week since I pitched and it’s going to be another week before I pitch again,’’ Straily said. “so this will be good.’’