PHOENIX — At first glance, Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt appears to be lobbying for a spot on the A’s opening day roster.
He walks into the team’s spring-training clubhouse, gets into his uniform and goes to the opposite side of the room, sitting down beside a teammate to see how he’s doing. As the catchers prepare to board vans for the short ride to fields down the street, he grabs bottles of water and begins tossing them to his masked mates.
The truth is, he showed enough during a late-season call-up to be strongly considered for more major-league duty.
“I like talking to and being with my teammates, but talking to them also is part of the job,” he said. “A catcher is considered a leader and you need to know as many things about your teammates, both on and off the field. You never know what kind of information you are going to learn. You know who to push and who to be easier with.”
A year ago, nobody in the Bay Area knew anything about Vogt, except for family in his native Visalia, Calif. He was a 12th-round draft pick by Tampa Bay in 2007 and was in the major leagues for 18 games in 2012 as an outfielder, catcher and first baseman. He was hitless in 25 at-bats.
Last April, Tampa Bay sold Vogt’s contract to Oakland. He spent the early part of the season with Triple-A Sacramento, was called up briefly in June, went back down and returned to Oakland for good in July.
The left-handed hitting Vogt started to play some against right-handed pitching, sharing duty with Derek Norris, then more and more. John Jaso, the team’s other catcher, was dealing with a concussion.
Manager Bob Melvin and the coaching staff liked the way Vogt handled the pitchers, and so did the pitchers themselves.
“He’s easy to work with. He has a good idea of what guys want to throw and what they should throw,” starting pitcher Jarrod Parker said. “He’s a very likable guy, has a great sense of humor. He can help us.”
The team went 8-0 in Vogt’s first eight starts and was 27-13 in games that he started. He finished with a .252 batting average with four home runs and 16 RBIs in 47 games. He also showed a strong, accurate arm in going after potential base stealers.
The best was yet to come. In Game 2 of the ALDS, Vogt guided Sonny Gray to a 1-0 victory against Detroit’s Justin Verlander. Vogt also delivered the game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth inning.
“Everything about that night was something you dream of,” said Vogt. “Going toe-to-toe with the best pitcher in baseball and then getting that hit . . . it was amazing. Now I’m here and get an opportunity to catch this staff again. I want to help us keep it going.”
NOTES: Position players reported Wednesday and will have their first full workout Thursday, including some live hitting. Melvin will deliver his speech to the team “with some issues from last year that will be prevalent again, with a few new tricks,” he said. … The A’s are expected to have more team speed, leading to more steal attempts, “and more hit-and-runs,” Melvin said. … LHP Joe Savery, picked up on waivers from the Phillies, looked strong in his first bullpen session in front of Melvin and most of his coaching staff.