Ryan Vogelsong(notes) hadn't won a game in the major leagues since Sept. 14, 2005. But he got a notch in the win column for the first time in almost six years on Thursday afternoon, getting the victory in the San Francisco Giants' 5-2 win over his old Pittsburgh Pirates team. It was the first game the 33-year-old righthander had started in the majors since 2004.
"It was a sense of accomplishment for me before the first pitch had even started," Vogelsong told reporters after the game. "I was fighting it a little bit not to find myself getting too relaxed, you know?"
Vogelsong said he thought about notching another big league win "thousands of times," but he took about as long and winding a road as a baseball player can take to get there.
After compiling a 6.39 ERA in 20 games for the Pirates in 2006, the Pirates sent him down to Triple-A by midseason where he finished with a 4-5 record and 2.66 ERA in 11 appearances.
The next stop was Japan, where he pitched for the Hanshin Tigers and Orix Buffaloes for three seasons before coming back to the United States for one last shot. The Philadelphia Phillies signed Vogelsong to a minor league deal in 2010 and assigned him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley after spring training. Midway through the season, however, the Phillies released him and he signed with the Los Angeles Angels' organization, where he pitched 25 games for Triple-A Salt Lake.
This spring, Vogelsong signed yet another minor league deal with the Giants, the team that originally drafted him in 1998. But despite compiling a 3-2 record and 3.27 ERA in seven appearances, he couldn't crack the already established starting rotation. Assigned to Triple-A Fresno, Vogelsong started the season strong with a 2-0 record, 1.59 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings. That made him an ideal candidate to be called up if a spot on the Giants' pitching staff opened up.
The opening he had been waiting for came when Barry Zito(notes) sprained his foot nearly two weeks ago and went on the DL for the first time in his 12-year career. Vogelsong got the call to the majors — one that was a long time coming, as his wife reminded everyone on Twitter.
Offdays in the schedule allowed the Giants to skip Zito's spot in the rotation and pitch Vogelsong out of the bullpen. In his first two appearances, he threw 4 2/3 scoreless innings. That may have helped Vogelsong to get his feet under him and not get overwhelmed by his return to the show.
But Vogelsong finally got the call on Thursday. Perhaps even sweeter for him, the start came against his former team. In 5 2/3 innings, Vogelsong allowed two runs on four hits with eight strikeouts.
It took a journey of 13 years, 16 other teams and two countries for Vogelsong, but he finally got that first win for the Giants. The hard work, faith and dedication finally paid off.