Vogelsong brings passion for Classic to Team USA
Right-hander leaves Giants, turns attention to start against Italians in Phoenix
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- To Ryan Vogelsong, baseball remains synonymous with America. That's more than just a feeling for the Giants right-hander. It's a conviction.
Vogelsong will receive the chance to turn his sentiment into action on Saturday night, when he starts for Team USA against Italy at Chase Field. The U.S. will open play Friday night against Mexico.
The Americans were eliminated in the Classic's second round in 2006. They improved in 2009, reaching the semifinals. Vogelsong sounded bent on helping the U.S. continue its progress.
"This is called our national pastime. We haven't fared so well in the first two [Classics]," he said. "It's our obligation to show people that this is our game and that we can be the best team we can be for the next two weeks."
Vogelsong prepared for his Classic debut on Monday, working three-plus innings and being charged with three runs in the Giants' 6-2 Cactus League loss to the Chicago White Sox. He blanked Chicago on two hits for three innings before singles by Jeff Keppinger and Paul Konerko sandwiched a walk to Adam Dunn, generating a run. Vogelsong was relieved by Josh Osich, who yielded Dewayne Wise's three-run homer.
Vogelsong pronounced himself ready for the Classic.
"I just lost my tempo a little bit out of the stretch, but everything else was good," he said.
Vogelsong threw 60 pitches, five fewer than the limit for starting pitchers in the Classic's first round. They can increase their workload to 80 pitches in the second round and 95 in the semifinals or final.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti elected to let Vogelsong build up his stamina after initially prescribing a 50-pitch stint.
"He felt good, so we let him go," Bochy said.
Vogelsong said that he will shift his focus to the Italians immediately. While Team USA faces the White Sox on Tuesday, Vogelsong indicated that he will gather as much knowledge as possible about the likes of Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo and Mariners third baseman Alex Liddi. Vogelsong's a little more familiar with big league veterans such as Nick Punto and Chris Denorfia, and Team Italy catcher Tyler LaTorre has been in Giants camp as a non-roster invitee.
Vogelsong acknowledged that his anticipation for the Classic has been growing steadily. His enthusiasm picked up considerably last weekend when he watched telecasts of Classic games.
"You can feel the intensity even on TV," said Vogelsong, the Giants' leading winner in last year's postseason (3-0). "I'm really looking forward to it."
Even the setting promises to generate adrenaline.
"We're going to be playing night games. That changes things," Vogelsong said. "When you get underneath the lights, it's a totally different atmosphere."
Bochy declared as Spring Training began that the Giants wouldn't let any of their prospective Classic participants leave camp unless they were physically game-ready. He's satisfied that this is the case with Vogelsong and LaTorre, as well as left-hander Jeremy Affeldt (U.S.), third baseman Pablo Sandoval and second baseman Marco Scutaro (Venezuela), center fielder Angel Pagan (Puerto Rico), right-hander Santiago Casilla (Dominican Republic) and right-hander Sergio Romo (Mexico).
"We feel really comfortable with it," Bochy said.
Vogelsong, 35, has exemplified the overall health of the Giants' starters, who did not miss a turn due to injury last year. He attributed their durability to the athletic training staff's guidance with workouts and the pitchers' own diligence.
"I know one thing that impresses me the most about our staff is that all of us work very hard between starts to get ready for the next one," Vogelsong said.
Vogelsong's next one promises to be a unique experience.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.