Monday, July 18, 2011

Vogelsong Staying Strong

33-year-old San Francisco Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong will try to keep the dream alive against the Dodgers tonight.

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Feeling stale? Didn't get that recent promotion at the salt mine? Looking for inspiration? If it sounds like I'm talking directly to you, then you might want to tune into the Giants-Dodgers game tonight to see MLB's surprise of the year, Ryan Vogelsong, take the hill tonight.

If you aren't familiar with Vogelsong's story, allow me to give you the highlights: After being drafted in '98 by the Giants, and labeled as a future big-name starter, Vogelsong's career got wildly off track. He was traded by the Giants to Pittsburgh in the deal that brought Jason Schmidt to SF, and while he did manage to get his ERA under 6 for one season (detecting sarcasm?), he eventually got injured, hadTommy John surgery, and found himself looking for a job when he got healthy.

He bounced around like an old ratty tennis ball with teeth marks, no fuzz and no air, limply landing in Japan for three years, and on a few minor league rosters after that.

All the while -- and this is where you need to get your handkerchiefs ready -- he didn't quit. Thankfully for Ryan, his wife Nicole wouldn't let him. "She's the optimist and I'm the realist," said Vogelsong. "I was ready to talk about (quitting), she wasn't."

After 1,760 days without a Major League Job, Vogelsong ended up back on the roster of the team who drafted him, and earlier this year, he got his first MLB win after 2,413 days without one.

It's crazy, and the more you crunch the numbers, the crazier -- or more inspiring -- it gets. According to Elias, the last man to go four years without playing in the bigs, then make the all-star team in his first season back, was Mickey Harris, who played for the Red Sox in 1946.

At 33, Vogelsong has continued to ride this wave. The righty from Charlotte, N.C. is currently 6-1 with a 2.17 ERA in 91 1/3 innings pitched. The last time Vogelsong threw that many innings he ended up going 6-13 with a 6.50 ERA for the 'Bucs in '04.

What a difference 7 years makes.