Stephen Vogt didn’t get his first taste of life in the majors until the age of 27, when he made it into 18 games for Tampa Bay. The A’s acquired him at the start of last season and called him up to the big club from Sacramento midway through the year. And with John Jaso sidelined through much of the second half, Vogt played a pivotal role in the A’s pennant run.
Many were disappointed when he started the 2014 season back at Sacramento, including Vogt himself. But after a couple of months, he found his way back to the big leagues and Vogt has once again found himself in the middle of the action in Oakland. We had the chance to catch up with him in the A’s clubhouse during the Bay Bridge series just before the A’s were about to win their sixth straight…
AF: You seem to have a knack for coming through and getting a big hit when it counts. Do you look forward to hitting in those pressure situations?
SV: I think that’s the dream of any hitter. You want to be hitting with the game on line, you want to be hitting with people in scoring position with two outs, you want to be in those pressure at-bats. That’s when you drive in runs, that’s when it’s fun. I wouldn’t say I’m any different than anybody else. But I love those situations. I tend to relax in those situations. Being a catcher, I know, as a catcher, you’re nervous, pitchers are nervous. So you’ve just got to be patient and wait for a mistake.
AF: Do you feel that your defense as a catcher has improved or evolved over the past couple seasons since you’ve been with the A’s?
SV: Absolutely. I think just getting traded over here last year and being a catcher for a full season, doing something every day is the best way to get better at something. So, for the first time in my career, I was given the opportunity to catch every day. And so my defense has definitely gotten better because of that…Up until that point, I had never been given the chance to catch every day. But getting that full year of experience catching has really helped me take my defense behind the plate to another level.
AF: Well, you’ve been back playing a number of different positions again lately. How comfortable are you playing other positions at this point and how much time does it take you to acclimate to playing in other spots?
SV: Yeah, it takes time. But I feel like I’m right back to where I was a couple years ago when I was playing outfield, first and catching every week. So I feel comfortable. Am I as good as some of these other outfielders up here? No. Am I as good as some of the other first basemen up here? No. But I feel like I’m adequate and serviceable in the outfield or at first. And I feel like I’m going to make the routines plays, but I’m not going to be climbing any walls or doing anything that these guys can do.
AF: Now I wanted to ask you about a couple of pitchers. You started last year with Sonny Gray at Sacramento and ended the year catching him in the playoffs, and now you’re here with him again this year. How have you seen his evolution as a pitcher since you first saw him at Sacramento?
SV: Over the last year, Sonny’s learned how to pitch. And I think sometimes back in Sacramento, he could still just throw and get away with it. But ever since the playoffs and down the stretch last year and this year, he’s pitching. He’s commanding his fastball better, he’s throwing his breaking ball better, he’s throwing his changeup better. He’s just overall a lot better pitcher now as opposed to last year when I first caught him – he was still kind of a thrower.
AF: You were also catching Jesse Chavez last year at Sacramento, and you’ve seen him go to being a bullpen guy last year and now to a starter this year. Can you tell me a little bit about the evolution you’ve seen with him?
SV: I don’t think there’s been much of an evolution to be honest. Last year in Sacramento, as a starter, he was dominant. He was doing what he’s doing this year…so for him to do what he’s doing now, it’s not a surprise to me. I’ve seen him do that before…He does have starter stuff, and so he’s able to do it, and I saw that last year in Sacramento.
AF: So now that you’ve been back up with the big club for a little while and have had the chance to see the team compete, just how good is this team?
SV: I don’t know if I can say how good we are – but it’s fun. It’s a different feel every night. It’s 25 or 30 or however many guys we’ve had up here so far this year who all we care about is winning. It doesn’t matter who gets the big hit, who gets the last out, who gets the hold, who gets the save, who gets the win, as long as we’re shaking hands at the end of the game. There’s a lot of talent in this room, but there’s no superstars – and I think that’s what makes this team so special. Donaldson, Cespedes, Moss are having just monster years for us in the middle of the order and they’re carrying us offensively, but there are different guys stepping up every night. And I think that’s the testament of a true team. If I don’t get the job done, somebody right behind me is going to get it done. Everybody has that belief that the guy behind you is going to get it done if you don’t…and I think that’s just the mark of a good team. We all trust each other and believe in each other, and it’s a fun atmosphere to be a part of.
AF: And finally, when you started the first couple months of the season at Sacramento, how much did you miss being around these guys here in Oakland?
SV: A ton. I mean, I love Sacramento and I love the guys down there – the coaching staff is great. But going to the playoffs with this team last year and just feeling like you’re a part of the team…I just missed the guys, I missed the atmosphere, I missed the people. And to be back, it’s really good.