Vogelsong expects emotional return to San Francisco

Pirates starter fondly remembers his time with Giants

Vogelsong expects emotional return to San Francisco

LOS ANGELES -- Ryan Vogelsong stood on the field at AT&T Park after the Giants' 2015 season finale, a microphone in his hand and a packed crowd rapt at attention. He didn't write anything down, but he'd been thinking about what to say in the days leading up to that moment.

"I don't know where I'm going to be at next year or what the front of my jersey's going to say," Vogelsong said near the end of his speech. "But I do know one thing. I will always -- always -- be a Giant."

Vogelsong will take the mound at AT&T Park on Monday night wearing a Pirates jersey, and he's expecting an emotional reunion with his former club and the fans who grew to love him during his five years in San Francisco.

"I've been thinking about it all offseason," Vogelsong said. "When I found out it was that day, it's not like I haven't been thinking about it for a while. It's just going to be fun."

Vogelsong's winding path stopped in San Francisco in 2011. At the time, he thought he was completing a full circle. The Giants drafted, developed and traded him, so Vogelsong -- who struggled in his first stint with the Pirates, pitched in Japan and had been released twice the year before -- wanted to finish his career where it started.

The following five years were nothing short of a fairy tale for Vogelsong. He made a remarkable comeback, and was on the All-Star team in 2011. He won the World Series in 2012 and '14. Fans quickly came to appreciate Vogelsong's perseverance and unlikely success story.

"He's always going to be one of our favorite guys," Giants GM Bobby Evans said. "It's tough to face him because we root for him."

Vogelsong still keeps in touch with his former teammates, and he considers his relationships with Javier Lopez, Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner to be especially meaningful.

It's no surprise the Giants were among Vogelsong's biggest supporters after he was struck in the face by a 92-mph fastball on May 23 and worried that his career was over. Evans emailed Vogelsong's wife, Nicole, before he made it to the hospital. Manager Bruce Bochy reached out, as did other coaches and teammates.

Giants fans flooded Nicole's Twitter mentions with messages of support and continued to do so after he returned to the rotation in Atlanta on Aug. 4.

"They really supported me tremendously for five years through the good times and the bad times," Vogelsong said. "As emotional as Atlanta was for me the other night, it's going to be every bit of that on Monday."

The name on his jersey has changed, but his feelings for San Francisco haven't.

"I've been thinking about it for quite a few months," Vogelsong said. "I don't know if I can be fully prepared for what it's going to be like, but I've tried to get myself ready for it in case it happened. It's going to happen."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.