HOUSTON — Daniel Vogelbach was sent down to the minor leagues on five separate occasions last year. Sunday, the Mariners first baseman/designated hitter was named an American League All-Star reserve.
A rapid rise, for sure, for the 26-year-old, who has 20 home runs and 48 RBI in his first full major-league season. Vogelbach is the only Mariners representative for the July 9 All-Star Game in Cleveland.
“Being an All-Star was never really something in the back of my mind in those times,” Vogelbach said Sunday. “Just trying to get an opportunity to play was No. 1. I want to prove them (Mariners) right for giving me the opportunity.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet. I don’t think it will until you are there. It’s good to be announced today.
“This is a great honor and I’m super excited. I’m kind of speechless, there’s multiple guys in that (Mariners clubhouse) that deserved it. Unfortunately, we only got one. I’m humbled and thankful that I get to represent the Mariners.”
Right fielder Domingo Santana also was worthy of All-Star consideration. Santana leads the AL with 62 RBI and has 18 home runs.
It’s a rebuilding year for the Mariners, who in-season have traded power hitters Edwin Encarnacion and Jay Bruce.
“I knew he was going to get a chance to play,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said of Vogelbach. “I was betting that his time to play was more to come in the second half of our season.
“I had a meeting with him about a week after we got back from Japan and he was a little frustrated, wasn’t playing much. I called him in and said you got to trust me. I said you’re going to get 350 to 400 at-bats once it’s over, it just may not come right now. You know players want to play every day.”
Vogelbach, who leads the majors in percentage of pitches taken (66.1 percent), has picked up the slack offensively for a Mariners team that is 37-51 following the 6-1 defeat Sunday at Houston. Defensively, he’s improving. The Mariners aren’t expecting a Gold Glover, but Vogelbach usually is in the correct spot at his position on the field.
But it’s on offense where Vogelbach stands out. With 20 homers and 56 walks, Vogelbach is the only left-handed hitter in Mariners history with at least 20 homers and 50 walks before the All-Star break. He said he was receptive if asked to participate in the Home Run Derby.
Vogelbach has played 51 games this season as DH and 28 games at either first base or pinch hitter. He leads all designated hitters in on-base percentage (.384) and OPS (.919).
Vogelbach started to get more at-bats when Encarnacion went down with a wrist injury earlier in the season.
“We put Vogey in, he got a few hits, a few homers,” Servais said. “He worked himself in the Edwin, (Bruce) rotation and he’s earned it. The (home-run) ball he hit (Saturday night), it’s tough to do that, opposite field.”
Vogelbach also has taken on more of a presence in the clubhouse.
“Happy with Vogey,” Servais said. “It’s a welcomed voice. Vogey loves baseball. He’s a good teammate, comes with energy every night. It’s been fun to watch.”
Record-wise, it hasn’t been ideal for the Mariners after a 13-2 start to the season. But it hasn’t dampened Vogelbach’s enthusiasm. He’s enjoyed playing with his teammates, and being selected to the Midsummer Classic to play with the games’ best is rewarding to the slugger.
“It’s been a really fun first half, we would like more wins,” Vogelbach said. “But the group of guys in the clubhouse that we have this year is unbelievable and my first year in the big leagues to be selected as an All-Star is really grateful.
“Credit to the guys around me and the coaches for helping me as much as possible. This is a great honor and I’m going to enjoy it and finish the season off strong.”