PEORIA, Ariz. -- Daniel Vogelbach has always been a big kid with big aspirations. So the fact that he's now one of the biggest question marks in the Mariners' equation this season as an unproven rookie first baseman doesn't phase him in the least.Listed at 6-foot, 250 pounds, the 24-year-old
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Daniel Vogelbach has always been a big kid with big aspirations. So the fact that he's now one of the biggest question marks in the Mariners' equation this season as an unproven rookie first baseman doesn't phase him in the least.
Listed at 6-foot, 250 pounds, the 24-year-old doesn't fit the mold of the typical Major League first baseman. But he pushed all winter in Florida to improve his flexibility and footwork to give himself the best chance possible this year, and he is eager to see how things play out on the practice fields of the Peoria Sports Complex.
"I was working out with a purpose this year, becoming more flexible, loosening my body up and doing things to help me move better around the bag at first," Vogelbach said. "That was the main goal of the offseason, and I think I definitely accomplished that.
"I'm definitely feeling like I can get to balls that I couldn't before. I'm just anxious for Spring Training to keep going so I can keep working."
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Conditioning with his brother, who is a trainer in Florida, Vogelbach, who is Seattle's No. 5-ranked prospect, did drills to improve his lateral mobility and first-step quickness. He practiced yoga several times a week in addition to his normal stretching routine to loosen his hips and hamstrings, and he has impressed the Mariners brass with his early showing in camp.
The Mariners believe Vogelbach can hit, which he's done all through his Minor League career in the Cubs system. He posted a .292/.417/.505 line with 23 homers and 96 RBIs in 133 games at Triple-A Iowa and Tacoma last year.
But Seattle has a designated hitter in Nelson Cruz, so Vogelbach will need to show he can play in the field if he's going to be part of Mariners' plans.
General manager Jerry Dipoto acquired veteran Danny Valencia as a right-handed platoon partner with Vogelbach at first and also to provide an everyday insurance policy if needed. Thus Vogelbach knows his roster spot is far from guaranteed, but that only serves to drive him harder.
"The goal is to get better every day and learn as you go," he said. "But at the same time, I'm ready to get after it. I'm ready to compete. Competing is something I really enjoy. I'm looking forward to competing for a month and a half."
Manager Scott Servais acknowledges Vogelbach's defensive development is one of this camp's priorities, and he likes the early progress.
"He's a thick guy. That's just how he is," Servais said. "He spent a lot of time on it this offseason. I think he looks great. He's certainly moving a lot better defensively around the bag. He's a lot more flexible. His hands are working better. I like what I see so far."
Vogelbach, who was drafted by the Cubs in 2011, watched his former Chicago teammates win the World Series in October, sharing from afar the joy of friends he'd come up with in the Minor Leagues before being traded to Seattle for Mike Montgomery in July.
"I'm really close to a lot of those guys, and they worked really hard for it, and they deserved it. I'm happy for them," he said. "Now I'm over here, and it's my time to do what I can to help the Mariners get there."
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter [
@GregJohnsMLB]() and listen to his podcast.