Stephen Vogt still wants to catch for the A’s again this season, and he’s taking a significant step toward that goal on Wednesday, fielding for the first time since a devastating foul tip to the groin area Sept. 6.
Vogt, who has started one game at designated hitter and had one pinch-hit appearance since his injury, will start at first base against the Texas Rangers. Vogt has been doing pregame work at first base to mentally prepare for returning to the field and manager Bob Melvin said Vogt is “ready for it tonight.”
“We feel like we’ve given him the proper amount of time, and obviously he has to feel comfortable doing it,” Melvin said. “And I think if all goes well there you could see him behind the plate as soon as this weekend.”
The foul tip that sent Vogt to the hospital and sidelined him for two weeks, and the image of Vogt writhing on the ground in pain, might make some wonder why he would want to catch again this season. But Vogt said it’s important – and he would like to catch at least one more game at home this year, in front of A’s fans.
“Part of it is I want to get back there right away just to get the flinching out of the way, if there’s a ball that’s headed in that direction, just so I’m going into the winter and I’m like, ‘All right, I got back in there, I’m fine,’ ” Vogt said.
“For me it’s a hurdle I’d like to get over sooner rather than later. The way I look at it is, it’s a mental thing; it’s not a physical thing. The doctors say I’m fine, the trainers say I’m fine. Obviously there’s always the risk of getting hit there again, and I don’t wish that on my worst enemy. But at the same time, it’s either going to happen or it’s not.”
Vogt has also been doing early catching work in the bullpen to prepare for games – he caught a handful of bullpen sessions Tuesday, did blocking drills and threw to bases on Wednesday. He admitted he was a little “late, hesitant” during the blocking drills, and said he plans to catch more bullpen sessions Thursday to work on that.
Catching in general, he said, “started off not very comfortable. But that’s also two weeks off. It kind of felt like the first day of spring training again, but by the end of the day I started to feel more normal.”
Melvin said he believes that “once (Vogt) gets back there and starts doing his thing, blocks a few balls, I think it’ll be more about just playing. … It was a pretty significant injury, but he’s a tough guy.”
Vogt said he has already told A’s staff he feels good enough to catch in games, but he’s waiting for the medical staff to clear him and he appreciates their caution.
“Because I would rush back,” Vogt said. “(Trainer Nick Paparesta is) one of the best in the game and I trust his judgment. He’s not going to put me back there until he knows I’m physically ready.”
As Melvin indicated, that could be as soon as this weekend, when the A’s welcome the Giants into town for the Bay Bridge Series. Vogt said he hopes that’s the case.
“I love playing here in Oakland, I love these fans,” he said. “And to catch one more time this year would mean a lot to me personally.”
▪ It was a busy pregame for Vogt, who was also named the recipient of the A’s 2015 Dave Stewart Community Service Award. The A’s said in a release that Vogt is an active supporter of the School of Imagination in Dublin, which works with autistic and special-needs children, and has supported numerous other team initiatives and programs in the local community.
“It just means that he’s not only well thought of in our clubhouse, on the field and how he handles himself in the clubhouse as a leader, but then off the field too with what he does in the community,” Melvin said of Vogt, who is also the A’s nominee for MLB’s Roberto Clemente Award.
Stewart will present Vogt with his eponymous award in a pregame ceremony Thursday.
“I think that’s our most important job is what we do off the field,” Vogt said. “It’s bigger than hitting a home run, it’s bigger than throwing somebody out. It’s helping people in the community and helping people around this area that can use it. We’re major-league baseball players, we have a platform, and it’s our job to do something like that.”
▪ That was one of two awards given to Vogt on Wednesday. The other: The Bill Rigney Good Guy Award, presented by the local chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America to an A’s player in recognition of cooperation with the media. This one should come as no surprise: Vogt all season has been accessible, approachable and a good quote – after wins or losses.
It was surely the less prestigious of Vogt’s two recognitions Wednesday. But he allowed: “Anytime you’re recognized by anybody, it’s pretty cool.”
The A’s lineup Wednesday night against Rangers right-hander Colby Lewis:
And the Rangers’ lineup against A’s left-hander Felix Doubront: