SAN FRANCISCO -- After Tim Hudson made the final start of his major-league career and Jeremy Affeldt relieved him on the same day Affeldt announced he too will retire following this season, Giants right-hander Ryan Vogelsong made it clear he has no such intentions.
Vogelsong threw four scoreless innings in the Giants’ 3-2 loss to the Dodgers, allowing one hit and striking out six in what might have been his last outing of the season before becoming a free agent. Afterward, the 38-year-old said he intends to pitch in 2016.
"I’m playing," Vogelsong said. "I’m playing somewhere, first and foremost. I don’t think I’m done. I think today proved that."
The question to be resolved in the coming months is where. And Vogelsong was realistic Thursday about his chances of returning to the Giants, with whom he has spent the past five seasons.
"After the last month, not getting a lot of time on the mound, I would say I’m probably not on a high priority list -- as much as I hate to say that, because everybody knows how much I love it here and love these guys in the clubhouse," Vogelsong. "But I think as many times as I’ve seen the field in the last month kind of puts the writing on the wall."
"That being said," he added, "crazier things have happened."
Vogelsong nearly signed with the Houston Astros last offseason, but ended up returning to the Giants on a one-year deal with the understanding that he likely would not start the season in the rotation. He wound up making 22 starts anyway and entered Thursday’s game 9-11 with a 4.81 ERA in 32 appearances overall. Thursday’s outing, however, was only his fourth since August 29.
At 38, Vogelsong said he physically feels "as good as I ever have," and that he hopes to be somewhere next season where he has a shot at making the rotation.
"I’d like a chance to start, and I feel like I can still take the ball for 32 starts in the season and we’ll see where the wind blows me," Vogelsong said. "My arm feels good, and I still think I have a lot to offer to somebody. So we’ll see where that is."
Vogelsong said he has spent a lot of time in the video room over the past month trying to rediscover the form he had from 2011-2012, when he went 27-16 for the Giants and made an All-Star team. He went 3-0 in four starts for the Giants in the postseason during their run to the 2012 World Series title and became popular among fans while staging a career renaissance with the team that originally drafted him in 1998.
Manager Bruce Bochy did not rule out Vogelsong pitching again this season, but said that if Thursday’s appearance was Vogelsong’s last, "What a great outing to finish up on." The right-hander agreed that it was better, at least, than his final outing of 2014, when he was in a similar position of not knowing whether he’d return to the Giants the following season. Vogelsong took the loss in that game, allowing four runs to the Padres at home.
"Hopefully I get another chance to go out there, do it again," Vogelsong said Thursday. "But if this was the last one, it’s been a fun ride, it’s been an amazing ride. Things have happened to me with this team and this city that I never thought were going to happen to me in my career.
"The fans here have been great to me and my family. I couldn’t ask for any more from them. If that was the last one it was a good one to go out on."
* Thursday’s game was definitely the last for Hudson, and the details of his short outing can be found here. Afterward, Bochy said it was an "honor" to manage Hudson for two seasons, and again mentioned Hudson as a potential Hall of Fame candidate.
Recently, we looked at how Hudson’s combination of career wins (222) and winning percentage (.625) puts him in Hall of Fame company. Other aspects of his resume, such as his 3.49 ERA, might not compare. But Hudson was one of the most consistent pitchers of his era, which began at a time when offense dictated the sport.
Hudson, fresh off his final major-league start, said Hall of Fame talk was "something I can’t really get my head around right now." For the first time in 17 years, Hudson will head into an offseason without having to think about a throwing program or getting his body ready for spring training. What is he looking forward to most?
"Gosh, it’s hard to say," Hudson said. "Summer vacation for once -- which will probably revolve around baseball, going to a baseball game or something. But you know what, I love this game, I’ve been very blessed to play a game that I love for a living. And I’m looking forward to the next chapter for sure. It’s going to be a lot of fun."
Hudson got a sentimental send-off from the crowd at AT&T Park and his teammates as he left the game in the third inning, and afterward called Giants fans, "The best baseball fans -- in my opinion the best sports fans -- there are around." He also said he’ll cherish the relationships he formed in the Giants clubhouse.
"This is a classy town, a classy organization," Hudson said. "I have the best teammates I think I’ve ever played with. So it made things really easy for me, for sure."
Bochy said he hopes Hudson will come around to visit.
"If you look at over the years, you get a chance to spend time with some great players and get to know them," Bochy said. "And he’s certainly one of those for me."
* The other news of the day was Affeldt announcing his plans to retire after the season, bringing an end to a 14-year career that included seven seasons with the Giants. Fittingly, Bochy brought Affeldt in to relieve Hudson in the third.
"I know it looked like I was trying to revisit the seventh game of the World Series," said Bochy.
In Game 7 last year in Kansas City, Bochy replaced Hudson with Affeldt in the second inning and the left-hander pitched the Giants out of a jam. Thursday, Affeldt inherited two runners and allowed both to score on a soft Adrian Gonzalez single and a fielder’s choice where the Giants had a close play at the plate.
Bochy said Affeldt had "buzzard luck" Thursday. But he didn’t miss one of his last chances for a dig at the left-hander.
"I was kidding with him: ‘I’m glad it went better in the seventh game,’" Bochy said.
* Before the game, Bochy said that Madison Bumgarner will not start the final game of the season against Colorado. Bumgarner will finish the year 18-9 with a 2.93 ERA in 32 starts, setting career highs in innings (218 1/3) and strikeouts (234). He fell just short of becoming the Giants’ first 19-game winner since Shawn Estes in 1997.
"I don’t want him to start," Bochy said. "I talked to him and he’s good with it. We worked him pretty hard the last three starts, and there’s no point in Madison making this start. You go back to last year and how hard we rode him, and of course this year."
Yusmeiro Petit will likely start Sunday in Bumgarner’s place. Vogelsong might’ve been another candidate, but Bochy said he figured Vogelsong could give the Giants long relief Thursday with Hudson scheduled for short work. Bochy said after the game the plan was originally for Hudson to pitch just one inning, but he lasted into the third.
Otherwise, Bochy said, the Giants do not plan to shut down any relievers or Jake Peavy, who’s in line to start Saturday. And he did leave open the possibility that Bumgarner has not set foot on the field for the last time.
"I don’t plan on pinch-hitting him," Bochy said. "Actually I can’t say that. We’ll see how these games go."
* The Giants have just three games left, closing the season against the Rockies. Here are the pitching probables:
Friday: RHP Chris Heston (12-10, 3.62) vs. RHP Kyle Kendrick (6-13, 6.54)
Saturday: RHP Jake Peavy (7-6, 3.66) vs. LHP Chris Rusin (6-9, 5.37)
Sunday: TBA (Petit) vs. RHP Christian Bergman (3-1, 4.68)