SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Jett Bandy is not just down a competitor in the race to be the Brewers' second catcher, he is down a pregame throwing partner, too. And while Stephen Vogt's shoulder injury could boost Bandy's own bid for a spot on the Brewers' Opening Day roster, Bandy is anything but happy about it.
"I've seen the biggest improvement from last year to this year in his throwing," Bandy said. "He worked so hard all offseason. It just stinks. I feel for him."
Vogt was shut down earlier in the week after developing discomfort in his shoulder. An MRI revealed a strain, and Vogt had a checkup with a team doctor on Saturday while Bandy logged at-bats as the designated hitter in the Brewers' game against the Rockies. Vogt hopes to resume throwing after Monday's off-day and return to game action by the middle of this month.
That duo is competing for a spot alongside primary catcher Manny Pina. Bandy is out of options. Vogt's one-year contract, the one he signed in December to avoid arbitration and a potential nontender, is non-guaranteed.
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To prepare for the position battle, Bandy piled miles on his truck over the winter, traveling a triangle from his North Scottsdale home to the Brewers' training complex in west Phoenix to a private hitting facility in Mesa.
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"I hit a lot," Bandy said. "I felt so good at the end of the season. Usually, as a catcher, you are [gassed], but because I was hurt and didn't play that much, I went back home, took a little time off and then got right back in the cage."
It was all an effort to bounce back from a debut season with the Brewers that started well but took a turn for the worse after a terrific opening month. Bandy hit four home runs with a 1.010 OPS in 53 plate appearances in April, then saw his production cut by nearly half to a .511 OPS in May, June and July -- a stretch that included a demotion to Triple-A Colorado Springs.
After making it back to Milwaukee, Bandy sustained a fractured rib from an errant John Lackey pitch on Aug. 3 and went on the disabled list. He returned as a September callup but logged only 10 at-bats.
"It was a year where I started off great. I was doing what everyone wants to do, and that's what I focus on when I look back," Bandy said. "I learned a lot in those last three months. I watched so much baseball. Towards the end when [the division race] was getting close, I wanted to be out there so bad, but I couldn't. I learned a lot mentally. I think I'm more prepared for this year and what can come."
Brewers manager Craig Counsell described Bandy as in "a little bit of a tough spot" this spring. But that was before Vogt's injury added a new wrinkle.
"I've talked to Jett about it," Counsell said. "Jett was a little bit a victim of our success last year. He got off to a great start, then he hit a slump and when he was kind of in the depth of that slump, we were actually playing really well and we were looking to address it. ...
"But he's part of this thing. I do think he was a major part of establishing the clubhouse last spring. That was very valuable. He played a very valuable role in that. He's part of us. If we get to the end of spring and Stephen has proven he's ready to go, then we're going to have a tough decision."
Bandy was ready to battle.
"I wasn't a high draft pick so I'm used to this. I feel like every Spring Training I have to prove myself, and guess what? In 2018, I have to do it again," he said. "I'm ready to go. I'm ready to play."