PEORIA, Ariz. -- Daniel Vogelbach has proven without question that he can put up good numbers at the Triple-A level. Carrying that success to the Major Leagues has proven elusive to this point, but the stocky Mariners first baseman feels he has a solution this spring.Just relax. Play his game.
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Daniel Vogelbach has proven without question that he can put up good numbers at the Triple-A level. Carrying that success to the Major Leagues has proven elusive to this point, but the stocky Mariners first baseman feels he has a solution this spring.
Just relax. Play his game. Be himself. And not worry about roster battles or expectations or all the outside noise that can suffocate any young player trying to make the jump to the big leagues.
So far, so good. Vogelbach -- Seattle's No. 11 prospect, per MLB Pipeline -- can be seen in the dugout before Cactus League games unleashing his effusive personality with aggressive high-fives and exchanges with every player and coach on the bench. He bounces onto the field with a hop to his step and is playing with a noticeably more confident air.
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It's early in camp, obviously, but Vogelbach went 2-for-3 with a home run, a walk and three RBIs in Friday's 4-2 win over the Brewers and made a nice defensive play at first base, the kind of performance the Mariners would love to see more of as they await word on when new first baseman Ryon Healy's surgically repaired right hand will be healed.
The 25-year-old Vogelbach is now 4-for-9 with a double, home run, three walks and a hit by pitch in four games.
A year ago at this time, Vogelbach thought he'd be used in a first-base platoon with Danny Valencia, but instead was sent down to Tacoma and spent most of his year again in Triple-A. He knows a roster spot will be tough to land with Healy and Rule 5 Draft pick Mike Ford in the mix, but he's not worrying about that this time.
"It's a totally different attitude in spring this year," he said. "Last year was my first spring with these guys, not really knowing anybody. Sometimes you get caught up in trying to prove yourself or trying to do something you shouldn't or aren't capable of, but I think being up and down last year and then being up in September allowed me to be myself and just play.
"I'm a firm believer that if you do what you can do and take care of your business, everything will fall into place."
Manager Scott Servais first noticed Vogelbach's more relaxed approach when the youngster rejoined the big league club last September. Vogelbach didn't get a lot of playing time in that final month, but benefitted from the experience.
Days like Friday, when he put that experience into play on the field, reinforced the progress.
"Vogey had a good day," Servais said. "He swung the bat well, he played well at first base. He's relaxed. That's kind of the Daniel Vogelbach we were hoping to see last year. Sometimes it takes a little longer, but he's relaxed, he's having fun and the results are starting to come."
Vogelbach hit .290/.388/.455 with 17 homers and 83 RBIs in 125 games last year for Tacoma, but got only 28 at-bats -- hitting .214 with one double and two RBIs -- over three short stints with Seattle. But he agreed that his return in September helped set him up for a better outlook this spring.
"Yeah, the more you get around people and the more reps you get, I started to settle in and was able to be myself and perform," he said. "[Struggling last spring] was nobody's fault except mine. I was kind of walking on egg shells, and it's hard to play that way.
"For me to really open up and be myself, the No. 1 thing I play for -- no matter where I am -- is I want to win. I'm very competitive and have a passion to win and want to do whatever I can to win. And I wasn't doing that. I wasn't being myself."
Vogelbach isn't kidding himself. He knows baseball is a hard game and there is work to be done. He changed some things in his swing and continued trying to improve his defensive footwork and the arm slot on his throws to second over the offseason.
But he's letting things fly this spring and will see where it takes him.
"I think the biggest thing I've learned is be aggressive," he said. "Go at it and really just not be passive at things. If I'm going to fail, I'm going to fail going 100 percent. I'm excited to compete and get after it."
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.