Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays surprise prospect Stephen Vogt with promotion to majors

FORT MYERS — Stephen Vogt was in the trainers room of the Triple-A Durham Bulls Athletic Park on Tuesday afternoon having his wrists taped for the Bulls workout, when coach Dave Myers delivered some stunning news:

Vogt was going to the big leagues and would be on the Rays' opening day roster.

"I'm just in shock right now," Vogt said a couple of hours later as he headed to the airport for his flight to Tampa. "It's definitely one of the best days of my life."

Vogt, 27, didn't appear to be in the Rays' immediate plans, having been sent back to the minors March 18 to work on his catching skills, while OF Jeff Salazar appeared to have the final roster spot given today's 5 p.m. deadline.

But the Rays were concerned about their offense with OFs B.J. Upton and Sam Fuld on the disabled list and decided they would rather have Vogt's bat than the experience and better defense they'd get from Salazar, who was sent to Triple A after the 6-2 win over Minnesota.

"We just felt right now, offensively speaking, that Vogt might be able to provide a little bit more with all the different things going on," manager Joe Maddon said. "His bat is one of the more impressive bats we have down below."

Vogt, a left-handed hitter, was the Rays' minor-league player of the year last season with a combined .298 average, 17 homers, 35 doubles and 105 RBIs between Double-A Montgomery and Durham. He hit .323 in spring training.

With Upton out until at least mid April and Desmond Jennings sliding over to center, Vogt will get some time in left and possibly at catcher, first base and as a pinch-hitter.

Maddon said the Rays are comfortable enough with Vogt in the outfield, with plans to use a defensive replacement if they had a lead.

ON THE OUTS: Salazar, 31, seemed in line to make it back to the big leagues for the first time since 2009 until the Rays decided on Vogt. "Sally did a great job," Maddon said. "He was fantastic, he played all the positions well, he had great at-bats, he really understands the game well and is a good baseball player."

The Rays are without a true backup centerfielder, a potential concern as Jennings missed time with a sore shoulder and they have cold-weather series at Detroit and Boston next week. But Maddon said he was comfortable with the options, which he listed in order as Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce and Elliot Johnson.

TUNED UP: RHP Jeremy Hellickson said he was ready for his first start of the season Sunday after a four-inning, 55-pitch outing, allowing two runs on six hits. "I felt a little better every start," he said.

After a rough start to the spring, Hellickson had back-to-back solid outings, a result of reducing the number of cutters he had been experimenting with and relying on his usual repertoire. "I think I'm just throwing pitches that I normally would," he said.

MISCELLANY: Fuld's surgery on his right wrist went well, the team said. He is expected to miss four-five months. … C Jose Lobaton hit a two-run as the Rays finished their Grapefruit League schedule 10-16-6. … With Vogt added, it appears Reid Brignac, Sean Rodriguez and Johnson will all be on the team, sharing time in the middle infield.

Times staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.

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