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Vogelsong has unfinished business with Bucs

Righty hopes for better results during second stint pitching in Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH -- During his remarkable comeback season in 2011, Ryan Vogelsong admitted that one of the reasons he wanted to sign with the Giants, the team that drafted him in 1998, was to bring his career full circle. If it didn't work out, if his long baseball journey back to San Francisco ended in disappointment, at least he could say he finished where he started.

Vogelsong didn't begin his career with the Pirates, who signed him Friday to a one-year deal, but he did play for Pittsburgh from 2001-06, a struggling pitcher on a struggling team. His return was inspired in part by his memory of those dark years, for himself and the franchise, because he'd like to leave a better impression the second time around.

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Vogelsong's wife, Nicole, had asked him in the past if he'd consider coming back to Pittsburgh. She's from the area, and her family still lives nearby. They're already familiar with the city, a rare convenience for a baseball family. But would he be willing to put on a Pirates jersey again?

"I said, 'Yeah, you know how I am.' I want to go back and change the way I did things," Vogelsong said in a phone interview. "I'm older now, more mature, and would like to have an opportunity to make things right. Now I have that opportunity, and I couldn't be more happy about it."

When it became clear late last season that he wouldn't be brought back after five memorable years in San Francisco, Vogelsong turned his attention toward another familiar destination. He never put pen to paper to make a list, but in his mind, the Pirates were his top choice.

Why? First, he's seen the success the Pirates have enjoyed over the past three seasons and likes the talent they've assembled. And in much the same way that he wanted a chance for closure with the Giants, he wanted a shot at redemption with the Pirates.

The Bucs gave him that opportunity. Vogelsong will join their rotation, general manager Neal Huntington said, adding that Vogelsong may have accepted less money ($2 million guaranteed, plus $3 million in incentives) to come back.

"He is fired up," Huntington said. "He feels like he has some unfinished business."

That has been a theme throughout Vogelsong's career. After six years in the Majors, three long years in Japan and some time in winter ball, a sense of unfinished business took him back to San Francisco. But 2011 didn't turn out to be the end of the line.

Vogelsong returned to the Majors that year, made the National League All-Star team and posted a 2.71 ERA that season. He pitched four more years and won two World Series titles with the Giants.

Now 38 years old, Vogelsong is three years removed from posting an ERA under 4.00. He's coming off a subpar season in San Francisco, finishing 9-11 with a 4.67 ERA as he bounced between the rotation and the bullpen, but he believes he's not far from being a consistently solid starter again.

"When I threw the ball good last year, I threw it really well. When I didn't, it was really bad. There was no in between," Vogelsong said. "Really, the difference between my really good ones and my really bad ones was a couple pitches."

Despite his unusual trek around the globe, Vogelsong has only pitched for two Major League teams: the Giants and Pirates. That makes Pittsburgh the second and final stop on his redemption tour, but it doesn't mean 2016 will be his last year. As Huntington said, Vogelsong still feels he has some unfinished business with the Pirates.

"There's no way I'm even close to thinking about being done playing this game," Vogelsong said. "I'm coming into this thinking I want to pitch the best baseball of my life and win games, keep playing and help this team go where they haven't been yet."

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.
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