Vogelsong 'ready' for role as Bucs reliever

Veteran starter acclimating well to bullpen

Vogelsong 'ready' for role as Bucs reliever

CINCINNATI -- It had been nearly a decade since Ryan Vogelsong pitched in a Major League game wearing a Pirates uniform when he took the mound Friday night. His last outing with Pittsburgh came on June 22, 2006, and since then, he's pitched everywhere from Japan to Venezuela to the World Series in San Francisco.

In the Pirates' 6-5 victory over the Reds at Great American Ball Park, Vogelsong earned his first win in a Pirates uniform since Sept. 14, 2005. He allowed two runs (one earned) on a hit and two walks over two innings out of the bullpen -- an assignment he's still getting used to.

"I'm still trying to feel it out a little bit. Just be ready for whatever," Vogelsong said. "I'm just kind of treating it like that."

It seemed like Vogelsong would be in the Pirates' rotation when he returned to Pittsburgh in December on a one-year, $2 million deal. But at the end of Spring Training, the Pirates couldn't deny Juan Nicasio a starting job. Vogelsong wound up in the bullpen.

Vogelsong, 38, spent most of his Pirates career as a reliever. He was a starter throughout his remarkable comeback with the Giants from 2011-14, then they shuttled him back and forth between the rotation and bullpen last season.

Vogelsong is still adjusting to life as a reliever, wondering whether he'll come in during an inning, or perhaps not, and then having to prepare for a new set of hitters in a clean inning.

"It's more mental for me than anything. I physically warmed up fine. It's just remembering how to transition my thoughts to get ready to pitch in a game," he said. "Not anything I haven't done before, just kind of remembering what that thought process is."

When manager Clint Hurdle informed Vogelsong that he'd begin the year in the bullpen, he said, the veteran right-hander vowed to do whatever he was asked to help the team.

"He's invested. He's all-in," Hurdle said. "He's going to figure it out the best he can, and you know you're going to get his best effort from him out there."

That was the case Friday night, but Vogelsong still had to shake off some rust. He hadn't pitched since the Pirates' Grapefruit League finale on March 31.

"I felt pretty good, considering that was a pretty long layoff," Vogelsong said. "I didn't feel like I had as much touch as I wanted to on my breaking stuff. It was OK.

"I felt like the ball was coming out of my hand really good. That's really all you can ask for, and hopefully just continue to get sharper and sharper as I go."

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.