OAKLAND The A's will have three catchers available for the American League Division Series, but only one who hits left-handed. And with the Detroit Tigers lining up a starting rotation of four right-handers, that likely means they'll see a good amount of Stephen Vogt.
"Just to fathom being here in the Oakland clubhouse, getting ready to catch a few games in the playoffs, it's a surreal feeling," Vogt said this week. "It's really neat, but just to fathom it six months ago I'd be lying to you if I said, 'Oh, yeah.' "
Six months ago, Vogt had just been cast off by the only major-league organization for which he'd played. The Tampa Bay Rays traded Vogt, 28, to the A's for cash considerations after he failed to make the Rays' roster after spring training.
With 25 at-bats (and no hits) in the majors to that point, Vogt was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento. He didn't debut in Oakland until late June and even then played in only four games before being sent back down.
In July, the A's needed a left-handed-hitting catcher after John Jaso's concussion. Vogt returned July 25 and has been a regular against right-handed starters since. Now he figures to play a prominent role as the A's attempt to avenge their loss to the Tigers in last year's ALDS.
A's manager Bob Melvin said Wednesday that Detroit being righty-reliant "doesn't mean (Vogt is) going to start every game, but there's a good chance."
Vogt's time with the A's has been brief but productive: In 40 starts during the regular season, the A's were 27-13, which Melvin said "tells a lot about him and the matchups we're getting when he's in those games."
"With our roster, just because you start doesn't mean you finish and the guys that don't start may have the biggest at-bats in the game," Melvin said. "But everything he's done to this point in the season would suggest he's very ready for the opportunity."
During Vogt's time in the minor leagues, it was his offense that stood out. Vogt, who was selected in the 12th round by the Rays in 2007, is a career .302 hitter in the minors, and he batted .438 for the River Cats in April. During six years in the Rays' system, he played more games in the outfield (237) than at catcher (140).
A's pitchers, though, have praised Vogt for how easily he has transitioned into handling their staff, most of whom he had never caught before being called up in June.
"It's one of those things where he's picked our brains and gotten to know us off the field as people and that definitely helps," right-hander Jarrod Parker said. "I think doing that kind of stuff makes working in the games seamless. He's gotten an idea of how we like to pitch, and he knows how to call a game."
Vogt debuted with the A's on June 25. The next day, he was behind the plate for A.J. Griffin's two-hit shutout of the Cincinnati Reds, the first time they had worked together.
"Obviously when they put a guy back there, they think he's pretty good, so you just trust in that guy, and he's been a good catcher for us ever since," Griffin said.
One of the pitchers Vogt caught before June was reliever Dan Otero, who also spent the early part of the season in Sacramento. With the River Cats, Otero said he noticed that Vogt "was always talking to pitchers during batting practice, down time in the locker room, trying to figure out what they want to do."
"He's a student of the game," Otero said, "and that's a huge asset for him."
While Vogt's first call-up lasted just four games, it allowed him to start working with the staff and included his first big-league hit a home run that snapped an 0-for-32 start to his career. The A's also won all four games.
"After catching those (first) two games, I really thought, 'Man, I can do this,' " Vogt said. "I can catch at the big-league level. I'd never been given an opportunity to do that. And the next day to get your first hit and catch a guy like Bartolo Colon I'd say after those first four games I knew I could do it.
"When I got my second opportunity to come up, I didn't know how long it was going to be, but I definitely felt more prepared and more like I belonged here. It's just been a privilege to contribute in the little way I have to this team being in the postseason. It's been pretty special."
Call The Bee's Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015, and read him online at blogs.sacbee.com/bay-area-baseball.