Former San Francisco Giant Ryan Vogelsong is continuing his journey through baseball, signing a minor league deal with the Minnesota Twins.
The already long, winding, nearly storybook journey for Ryan Vogelsong continues. The 39-year-old, free agent right-hander has signed a minor league deal with the Minnesota Twins, as announced by Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
The gritty bulldog pitcher was originally drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the fifth round of 1998’s amateur draft, out of Kutztown University in Pennsylvania. He moved quickly through the Giants’ organization, and made his big league debut in September of 2000, pitching in four games as a reliever that year.
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He returned to the big leagues in 2001, but did not pitch well. In 13 relief appearances, Vogelsong posted a 5.65 ERA and 1.500 WHIP before being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, along with Armando Rios. That trade worked out incredibly well for the Giants, bringing over Jason Schmidt and John Vander Wal. Schmidt went on to pitch five-and-a-half seasons with the Giants, posting an overall 3.36 ERA and 1.183 WHIP while striking out a batter per inning. He helped lead the Giants to the 2002 World Series, and was runner-up for the Cy Young Award in 2003.
It didn’t work out so well for Vogelsong. He didn’t appear in the big leagues in 2002 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and then pitched to a 5.87 ERA and 1.589 WHIP in 101 games (31 starts) from 2003 to 2006. He struck out just 6.1 batters per nine innings while allowing 4.3 walks and one home run per nine.
Vogelsong was granted free agency after the 2006 season, and went on to pitch for three years with Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan. He pitched for the Hanshin Tigers in 2007 and 2008 before spending 2009 with the Orix Buffaloes.
He returned to the United States before the 2010 season, signing a minor league deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. He was released midway through the season without appearing in the big leagues, and signed another minor league deal, this time with the Los Angeles Angels.
Again, he wouldn’t make it back to the big leagues and was released after the season. He returned to the Giants on another minor league contract, and that’s where his story really ramps up. He started the 2011 season with Triple-A Fresno, but an injury to Barry Zito allowed Vogelsong’s resurrection to begin.
Vogelsong made 28 starts among his 30 appearances, and pitched in a way he never had in the big leagues. He posted a 2.71 ERA and 1.252 WHIP, earning his only All-Star bid and finishing 11th in Cy Young voting. He continued his success in 2012, pitching to a 14-9 record with a 3.37 ERA, 1.228 WHIP, and career-high 7.5 K/9. He was a big part of the rotation that helped guide the Giants to the postseason and, eventually, the world Series. Vogelsong made four starts that October, allowing just three runs in 24.2 innings while the Giants won each of his starts.
He was limited to 19 starts because of a hand injury in 2013, but bounced back somewhat with a 4.00 ERA in 32 starts in 2014. He made three more postseason starts that year, and the Giants went undefeated again despite a couple of clunkers.
2015 was Vogelsong’s final year with the Giants, and he left with an emotional speech after game 162. He made another return in 2016, this time to the Pirates. Vogelsong pitched to a 4.81 ERA, but missed a good chunk of the year after being hit in the face by a pitch. Despite being told that his career might be in danger, Vogelsong did what Vogelsong does. He came back.
He missed about two-and-a-half months, but was back on the field on August 4th. On August 15th, Vogelsong returned to AT&T Park when the Giants hosted the Pirates, and received a big standing ovation after being pulled in the sixth inning.
This is only Vogelsong’s fifth big league organization, but his journey was been twisting and turning a lot more than that would show. With Minnesota, he may have a chance to get back to the bigs again. The young, rebuilding team will have spots to fill, and Vogelsong will have to fight to get his chance. But fighting is what Vogelsong does.