Durham's Stephen Vogt Getting Settled In

With determination to perfect his swing, confidence in his glove, and composure to remain patient while the game comes to him, Stephen Vogt is equipped to remain a force in the Rays organization. But after a disappointing, albeit brief, major league call up earlier this season does he have what it takes to work his way back to the top?

The 2011 Rays Minor League Player of the Year currently rides an 8-game hitting streak as of June 7th, finding success in his second stint in Triple-A ball after spending 31 games in Durham last year. Vogt also played in 10 games for the Rays this season back in mid-April, getting limited action in the outfield, behind the plate, and as the designated hitter.

Although he went 0-for-17 in his major-league cameo, Vogt's poise remains as he keeps the big picture in mind, stating that he's " just trying to play every day like before" his call up.

"I'm just going about my business in the way that I always do—not trying to do anything different," says a self-assured Vogt. "I've got a better feel at the plate now than I've had the first couple months of the season where it was kind of a whirlwind for me. I'm just kind of getting settled and getting more comfortable."

A comparison of stat lines shows his steady progression and his solid output at the plate. In 99 at-bats this season, which is 25 fewer than he had in AAA action last year, Vogt is only 12 hits, 1 home run, and 8 RBI off his total in last year's stint. The consistent success at the plate has caught the eye of Bulls skipper Charlie Montoyo, who hopes his catcher/outfielder can help spark the turnaround that his last-place Bulls need.

"Stephen just has to keep doing what he's doing. He had a good year last year so now I'm hoping he gets hot again," said Montoyo. "He's not a .240 hitter, so hopefully he will get hot now and end up on a good note."

As commendable as Vogt's play is on the field, it's also worth noting the character of the "proud husband and father" (according to his Twitter account, @svogt1229) which shines through off the field. Namely, winning the Erik Walker Community Champion Award in 2010 which recognizes one Rays minor-leaguer who "exemplifies teamwork, sportsmanship, and community involvement," according to Vogt's profile on the Durham Bulls' website.

But the Bulls' brawny backstop knows that character alone won't get him to the big leagues, and that there's still work to do in order for him to reach his potential. He knows that sitting at a batting average of .242 and an on-base percentage of just .286 won't cut it, and that catching only 1-in-10 base runners stealing leaves a lot to be desired from behind the plate.

"At the plate I'm just trying to slow everything down," said Vogt. "We tend to rush sometimes as hitters so I'm just trying to slow everything down—slow my load down, my timing, all that kind of stuff and stay under control with my mechanics. Behind the plate, I'm just continuing to work on my throwing."

Vogt has goals defined and opportunities at hand, and he knows what it takes to get back to the pinnacle of the game. With patient countenance he can look to lead a rejuvenation of Durham's season and continue to prove himself a valuable leader worthy of taking the field in St. Pete.

Ben Christoph is the Durham beat writer for Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @btchristoph


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