SEATTLE — Mariners manager Scott Servais acknowledged during his daily pregame video call how difficult this particular conversation was.
A season after he was named the club’s only All-Star, Seattle designated Daniel Vogelbach for assignment Wednesday afternoon ahead of its upcoming five-game homestand.
“It’s always difficult when you’re talking to a player that you have a tie with, and I’m of the biggest Vogey backers out there,” Servais said. “I love what he brings to a clubhouse and a team, and he truly does care about the team. He’s never been one of those guys that’s been all about him. He is a team guy through and through.
“So, those conversations are really hard. You do get emotionally tied to players. That’s one of the reasons I love the job so much, because you have a chance to impact young guys and help them along the way. But, with all the good conversations you get to have, there’s a few tough ones, and today was a tough one.”
Vogelbach appeared in 18 games this season as Seattle’s designated hitter, batting just 5-for-53 with a double, two home runs and 11 walks to 13 strikeouts. In his final appearance Tuesday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he was pinch hit for by Tim Lopes in the seventh inning after striking out swinging, flying out and grounding out in his first three at-bats.
This after he slugged a team-leading 30 home runs for the Mariners in 2019. Without any minor league options remaining, the Mariners vowed to get Vogelbach about 500 plate appearances last season to see how he fit into their future plans.
He slashed at .238/.375/.505 in the first half with 21 of those 30 homers, 11 doubles and 51 RBI on his way to the All-Star nod. But, his production dipped significantly in the second half, and he finished at .208/.341/.439 through 144 games, while also appearing in 57 at first base.
His bat didn’t fully regroup in spring training or summer camp, and it wasn’t until his ninth game this season he hit his first of the two homers.
“Vogey had a tremendous first half of the season last year, and we all got on the Vogey train, so to speak,” Servais said. “We all love Vogey. It’s a great personality, it’s a guy you want to spend time with and be around, he’s a really good teammate, and he was doing some great things for us early in the season last year. In the second half of the season, certainly, it took another turn and he really struggled. At that point we were exposing him to a lot of left-handed pitching, and really giving him an opportunity. … He earned it.
“As we got going into this season, early on, didn’t see much adjustments, and certainly wasn’t from a lack of work on his end. He’s trying to figure it out mechanically, but it just didn’t come together.”
The Mariners have relied on versatility in this shortened season as they continue to evaluate young players, and having Vogelbach exclusively available as a DH — a combination of some misadventures at first base last season and rookie Evan White taking over at first base on a daily basis this year — locked him into a singular role.
“His strength is in the batter’s box, and hopefully hitting it over the fence, but he doesn’t bring a whole lot other than the bat, and when that’s your big carrying tool, you have to hit,” Servais said. “It’s a do-good league, and where we’re at right now, we’re just going to give some of those at-bats and opportunities to some other players.”
Should Vogelbach clear waivers, the Mariners could send him to their alternate training site in Tacoma.
Meanwhile, Servais said the club will rotate players in the designated hitter role moving forward. The opening gives the Mariners opportunities to cycle through players like Kyle Seager and Kyle Lewis on days off from the field, or catcher Austin Nola on days Joe Odom is catching.
With the club expecting to face left-handed starters in four games this homestand, the Mariners also recalled both outfielder Braden Bishop, who bats right, and utility player Sam Haggerty, who is a switch-hitter, from Tacoma.
Bishop started Wednesday night’s homestand opener in right field, and Haggerty started in left. Both will be making their season debuts for Seattle.
“I have to give credit to what’s going on at the alternate site,” Servais said. “Those guys are getting after it every day. … They’re taking it serious, hoping for an opportunity, and we’re going to continue to give players opportunities this year. We talked about it at the beginning of the season. It wasn’t just going to be the team that we started with. As this thing progresses, we need to find out about as many players as we can this year.”
In a corresponding move, the Mariners optioned right-hander Art Warren, who was on the traveling taxi squad during the last road trip before being promoted ahead of Tuesday afternoon’s game in Los Angeles, back to Tacoma. Warren did not appear in a game.
Veteran reliever Bryan Shaw, who the Mariners designated for assignment last week, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Tacoma. He will report Thursday.