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Vogelbach feeling ready for spring competition

After rookie program, Mariners' No. 7 prospect set to battle Healy, Ford
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

SEATTLE -- Daniel Vogelbach doesn't have nearly as clear a path to making the Mariners' Opening Day roster this spring, but the first-base prospect does appear to have a clearer mind as to how to make that happen as Spring Training nears.

Vogelbach came to spring camp last year with the opportunity to win a platoon role at first base alongside veteran Danny Valencia, but spent most of the year in Triple-A Tacoma when the Mariners decided he needed more time to develop both defensively and at the plate.

SEATTLE -- Daniel Vogelbach doesn't have nearly as clear a path to making the Mariners' Opening Day roster this spring, but the first-base prospect does appear to have a clearer mind as to how to make that happen as Spring Training nears.

Vogelbach came to spring camp last year with the opportunity to win a platoon role at first base alongside veteran Danny Valencia, but spent most of the year in Triple-A Tacoma when the Mariners decided he needed more time to develop both defensively and at the plate.

Valencia and fellow veteran Yonder Alonso -- acquired in August -- departed via free agency, but general manager Jerry Dipoto traded for 26-year-old slugger Ryon Healy from the A's with the hope he can handle the everyday duties at first base, and the club also selected Mike Ford from the Yankees in the Rule 5 Draft to add further depth at that position.

Ford is a left-handed hitter, as is Vogelbach, and brings similar power potential and on-base skills. So Vogelbach -- despite another strong season at Tacoma -- will need to show he's better prepared now for a Major League bid if he's going to make a mark this spring.

Video: Vogelbach on his memorable debut

And the 25-year-old Florida native sounds like he's ready to take that challenge on after spending last weekend as one of four Mariners prospects at the Rookie Career Development Program in Leesburg, Va.

The Mariners' No. 7 prospect per MLB Pipeline got just 28 at-bats for the Mariners last year, most coming as a September callup, while hitting .214 in his limited duty. But he went 2-for-2 with an RBI double on the season's final day in Anaheim and says relaxing and just playing his game will be the biggest step toward achieving a jump to the Majors.

"The biggest thing is just experience," Vogelbach said. "Getting more at-bats and more plays in the field and just continuing to slow the game down. Over time, in September when I was up, I finally just got back to playing the game that I've always played.

"I just need to continue to get more reps and continue to realize that I do belong and I can play up there, like I know I can. Just continue to watch the veteran guys like [Kyle Seager] and [Robinson Cano] and [Nelson Cruz], the way they go about their business and attack every day."

Vogelbach posted a .290/.388/.455 line with 17 home runs and 83 RBIs in 125 games for Tacoma and was named to the Pacific Coast League All-Star team. His challenge now is showing he can translate that success to the big leagues and he knows much of that is mental.

Video: Vogelbach named Mariners' Pipeline Hitter of the Year

"Those are the best guys in the world and they're there for a reason," he said. "They stay there for a reason. The biggest thing is realizing it still is just baseball, taking the name off the back of the [opposing pitcher's] jersey and realizing he's still throwing a fastball, a changeup and a curveball. And I think when you get to that, it makes the game a lot easier."

Vogelbach has spent the offseason working out in Florida, continuing to do drills on footwork and agility at first base as well as hitting in the cage.

"Just the same old," he said. "I continue to work at first and I'm finally as confident in myself there as I am at the plate. And I took it upon myself to make some adjustments at the plate with my swing. I just want to continue to better myself every day in every aspect of the game."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Daniel Vogelbach