ST. LOUIS -- An hour after the end of the Pirates' disappointing season, not far removed from the final start of another trying year, Ryan Vogelsong stood in front of his locker and looked ahead.
Vogelsong spoke optimistically about the Pirates' chances in 2017, believing the adversity they encountered all too often in 2016 will serve them well down the road. He would know, too, having pushed this season through another obstacle on his long and winding career path.
The 39-year-old veteran, brought in to provide experience and innings while the Bucs waited for their pitching prospects to arrive, made the final start of their season at Busch Stadium on Sunday, a 10-4 loss to the Cardinals. But the defeat wasn't on Vogelsong, who pitched five solid innings, worked out of trouble and held the Cards to one run.
"It was a nice effort," manager Clint Hurdle said. "I thought it was a very competitive performance."
It was also an encouraging end to a disastrous stretch on the mound. Vogelsong entered with an 8.78 ERA over his previous six starts, a stark dropoff from the 2.48 mark he posted in his first five starts off the disabled list.
Overall, Vogelsong posted a 4.81 ERA in 82 1/3 innings, making 14 starts and 10 relief appearances. His season was interrupted, and his career threatened, by the 92-mph fastball that left Jordan Lyles' hand and smashed into Vogelsong's left eye on May 23.
"Just when you think you get tested as much as you're going to get tested," he said, "I get hit in the face and we start a whole different scenario."
Vogelsong had overcome plenty in his career, working his way back from Japan and winning two World Series with the Giants. He quickly recovered from the resulting facial fractures and refined his delivery with help from pitching coach Ray Searage. When he came back on Aug. 4 in Atlanta, he was as good as he's ever been for a month.
"Got a little sideways in the middle on me," Vogelsong said. "When I nail down what I've been working on, I can beat anybody on any night in this league. I still believe that.
"I don't see anything changing this offseason. Just try to hammer down what I've been working on so I don't have the inconsistencies in my delivery and get ready for another year."
And there will be another year, Vogelsong believes. He doesn't know where, nor in what capacity. It almost certainly won't be with the Pirates, though their younger pitchers benefited from his experience and insight.
When he returned to Pittsburgh last offseason, Vogelsong promised that it was not the beginning of the end of his career. As he leaves again, he still feels the same way.
"There's no doubt in my mind. I don't know how everyone else feels about that," Vogelsong said. "It's only going to take one. I hope there's one team out there that believes what I believe."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.