Dan Vogelbach Looks To Improve

SEATTLE—It will represent a major whiff by the Mariners if first baseman Dan Vogelbach doesn’t emerge eventually as a key bat.

Vogelbach’s outlook was not so clear at the end of spring training. The Mariners optioned him to Tacoma in late March because they saw a player struggling to do too much and, not surprisingly, spiraling downward.

“There were a lot of encouraging steps forward with his glove,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “But as he started pressing with the bat, in the middle of spring training, we started to see the glove suffer as a result.”

The demotion was a bitter pill for Vogelbach, who shed 17 pounds in the offseason and entered spring projected as the lefthanded portion of a first-base platoon with veteran Danny Valencia. This was Vogelbach’s chance, after years of being blocked in the Cubs system by Anthony Rizzo, and he pushed himself to take full advantage.

The Mariners acquired Vogelbach last July because of his bat. They saw a young hitter with emerging power who controlled the strike zone—he led the Pacific Coast League with 97 walks—who might eventually replace Nelson Cruz at DH.

But Cruz still has two years remaining on his contract. So if Vogelbach earns regular play this season, that time will come at first base. And, there, he needed to improve.

“We’re not looking for Gold Glove defense over there,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “But he’s got to be major league adequate and able to handle the plays he needs to.”

Initial returns were good. Vogelbach, a Cubs second-rounder in 2011 out of high school in Fort Myers, Fla., displayed improved mobility at first base this spring and at Tacoma.

A late slump at big league camp dropped Vogelbach’s average to .228. Worse, it corresponded with a defensive slippage.


Longtime utility infielder Denny Hocking is replacing Brian L. Hunter as a coach at Tacoma. Hunter was assigned to other duties. Farm director Andy McKay called the move a “better fit.”

Lefthander Dillon Overton had a memorable week at the end of big league camp. He learned March 31 that he had made the team. Four days later, his wife Morgan gave birth to the couple’s first child.

— Bob Dutton covers the Mariners for the Tacoma News Tribune

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