Former Pirate Vogelsong goes around the world and back
SAN FRANCISCO — Ryan Vogelsong stood on the cut grass at AT&T Park in his crisp San Francisco Giants uniform giving an interview for Japanese broadcaster NHK in English. No need for an interpreter.
The backdrop on the scoreboard said it all: World Series.
Halfway around the world and back, Vogelsong's journey is ready to go global. The right-hander will start Game 3 in Detroit opposite Anibal Sanchez on Saturday night looking to pitch the Giants one win away from another championship and cap a comeback that has become more improbable each time out.
“A lot of faith. A lot of hard work,” said Vogelsong, who will take the mound with San Francisco ahead, 2-0, in the best-of-seven series. “You also have to have some things go your way to get opportunities.”
For so many years, they so often didn't.
Vogelsong was drafted in the fifth round by the Giants in 1998 and became the primary piece of a trade to get Jason Schmidt from the Pirates in 2001. The promising prospect later had elbow ligament replacement surgery, failed in the big leagues, bounced out of the minors, had mixed results in Japan, then struggled with the Phillies' and Angels' minor league affiliates and at age 33 figured his career might be over.
One last chance came a year ago from the most unlikely team: the defending World Series champion Giants. Vogelsong, now 35, didn't make the club out of spring training. He went back to Triple-A Fresno, not an easy decision with his wife, Nicole, and son, Ryder, then 20 months old, left to share the burden.
While Vogelsong was sitting in the stands at a game in Las Vegas charting pitches between starts, his manager asked for his cell phone number. Barry Zito had been placed on the disabled list, and the Giants were looking for a replacement.
Sure enough, just before Vogelsong boarded the bus, his phone rang. Giants vice president Bobby Evans was on the other end with news that set Vogelsong on a path to this World Series: He was heading back to the big leagues to make a fill-in start for San Francisco against — who else? — the Pirates.
He held the Pirates to four hits and two runs in 5 2⁄3 innings for his first major league win in almost five years.
“I just believe that God had a plan for me this whole time,” Vogelsong said. “I feel like all the stuff that I went through ... is stuff that He was doing for me to get me prepared for this moment.”