Daniel Vogelbach was in a similar situation with the Seattle Mariners last spring — but with one significant difference.
After a solid camp in Arizona, where he posted one of the club’s best batting averages and team highs in a handful of offensive categories, he made the Opening Day roster, replacing an injured Ryon Healy.
When Healy was activated from the disabled list in April, Vogelbach went back to Triple-A Tacoma, where he has spent the bulk of the past three seasons of his Mariners career.
Now, Vogelbach must make the Mariners roster. The 26-year-old first baseman is out of minor-league options.
He is in a position battle this spring with Healy, who logged the most innings at first base last season, and Mariners newcomer Edwin Encarnacion, who is projected to be a daily contributor at first or as the designated hitter.
If Vogelbach doesn’t secure a roster spot, he will have to be placed on and clear waivers to remain with Seattle.
“Vogey is in a different situation because he doesn’t have options anymore,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Now is his time, as far as the Mariners are concerned, we have to find out what we’ve got.”
Servais noted Thursday afternoon that the final decision for that roster spot hasn’t been made.
“Timing is not always in our hands,” Vogelbach said. “When we think it’s our time, it’s not always our time. So, I’m just focusing on what I can, and continuing to put up numbers, because numbers are the name of the game.
“Put up numbers, and you’re going to get an opportunity. It’s just continuing to focus on what I can control, and everything else will work out.”
This spring, Vogelbach is hitting again, batting .462 entering Thursday, and was 6 of 13 with two RBIs and one homer in seven games.
Servais said Vogelbach entered camp in good shape after making some offseason adjustments.
“Mentally, he’s in a really good spot,” Servais said. “He knows in his mind he just needs an opportunity to get 300 or 400 at-bats at the big-league level. He’s always hit.
“We’re in opportunity mode here, but we’ve got some other guys who play first base and DH as well.”
Since joining the Mariners organization in 2016, Vogelbach has played 61 games with the big-league club — including 37 last season, primarily in April and September — but has never stayed up for longer than a month.
Vogelbach is plenty familiar with the positional battles, after how last season played out, and his 2017 season, when it was thought he would be a platoon partner to Danny Valencia, but that never panned out.
“I think you can easily get caught up in what’s around you, and it can effect how you play,” Vogelbach said. “So, I just keep my head down and go to work every day.
“Competition is the name of the game. That’s why it’s the big leagues. Everybody is the best.”
While in Tacoma, Vogelbach has impressed. He posted a .290 batting average each of the past two seasons, and was named to the Triple-A All-Star team when the Rainiers hosted the game in 2017.
He said the limited movement between Tacoma and Seattle the past three seasons has been challenging, but he tries to continue to showcase his strength at the plate.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” he said. “But, if you let the frustration get to you, and you don’t continue to have good years, then you get lost in the mix, and your time never comes.
“Wherever you’re at, you have to play, and you have to put up numbers and play the game the right way.”
This spring, he said he’s tried to continue being aggressive offensively, and look for pitches he can do damage on. Defensively, he’s worked on making the routine plays look routine.
“He’s very astute,” Servais said. “He knows pitching and how pitchers work him. He’s into that part of the game — which he should be, that’s his game.
“Defensively, it has gotten better since the first time he came here. There’s still some things to work on there, but I’m fine with where Vogey’s at.”
This spring is also different in that it’s abbreviated because the Mariners open the season in Japan, and leave Arizona next week. Vogelbach said he is trying to do what he can to ensure a good start — wherever that may be.
“My time is coming,” he said. “When your time is called, you have to be ready.”