The Seattle Mariners made a somewhat surprising decision on Thursday to option infielder Daniel Vogelbach to Triple-A Tacoma for the start of the season.
Vogelbach had been penciled in as the backup first baseman to Danny Valencia heading into spring training. However, Vogelbach had struggled over the last 10 days or so and the Mariners made the decision to open the year with Vogelbach in Tacoma.
"It's been a rough 10-day stretch for him," Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "Just felt like at this point with where he is both offensively and defensively that the best thing for him was to go back and start the season in Tacoma. That doesn't mean he's going to finish the season in Tacoma, but we felt like some of the adjustments or some of the work that we've asked him to do - both in the batter's box and defensively - was a lot to expect from the guy.
"As we get closer to opening day, it became more apparent that we weren't seeing a product that was finished enough for us to feel great about starting the season. Still feel like (he) will have a big impact on our season but for the time being sending him off to Tacoma to start the season we feel is the right thing to do for him and the team."
Vogelbach appeared in just eight games for Seattle last season after being acquired in a trade from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Mike Montgomery. Dipoto had been bullish on Vogelbach's chances to help the Mariners roster this season based on his consistency with his bat throughout the minors. While Vogelbach had improved significantly defensively this spring, the bat fell off recently and led Seattle to switch up their plans.
"This is very similar to what we did last year with James Paxton (and) Mike Zunino," Dipoto said. "We will take the appropriate time and care to make sure that when he comes to the big leagues he's polished enough in the areas that will be important. ... We do need to make sure that he's as complete a player as we can manage by the time he gets here. And right now we have enough depth around our club."
Vogelbach was batting .228 with one home run and five RBIs in 57 at-bats this spring. He was mired in a 1-for-24 slump with 10 strikeouts.
"He’s not happy about the decision," manager Scott Servais said. "I get it, I understand players, their goals and where their mindset is. But tied to that is offensively it hasn’t been great the last couple of weeks it’s fallen off, strikeouts and kind of that is now really who he is. But it’s his first time and trying to win a job out of Major League camp, it’s the do-good league. You’ve heard me say that before you do good, it’s performance driven and we just weren’t comfortable with his. It wasn’t his time."
The move of Vogelbach to Triple-A and Shawn O'Malley's untimely appendicitis puts infielder Taylor Motter in line to serve as the backup first baseman for the start of the regular season.
Motter has hit .300 this spring with two doubles, a home run and six RBIs with a .408 on-base percentage.
"Any position on the field," Dipoto said. "He's a good defensive player no matter where you put him."
The Mariners' major roster currently stands at 43 with 34 roster players and nine non-roster invitees still remaining.
Photo Credit: SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 17: Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners walks through the dugout before a game against the Houston Astros at Safeco Field on September 17, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The Astros won the game 2-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)