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Thiel: Vogelbach 'worthy' of All-Star selection, part of team's rebuilding

The Mariners' Daniel Vogelbach celebrates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run on a pitch from Minnesota Twins' Kyle Gibson during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, May 19, 2019, in Seattle.
John Froschauer
/
The Associated Press
The Mariners' Daniel Vogelbach celebrates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run on a pitch from Minnesota Twins' Kyle Gibson during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, May 19, 2019, in Seattle.

Major League Baseball's All-Star game takes place Tuesday, July 9, in Cleveland. The Mariners' lone representative is Daniel Vogelbach. KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel talked with Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick about the selection and how the team is doing midseason.

GIVEN A CHANCE

The Mariners aren't having a great season. But each team must be reprsented in the All-Star game and Vogelbach was selected by managers to be a reserve player. Thiel said Vogelbach deserved the selection. This season finally appears to be his time because he's gotten a chance to play consistently.

"The at-bats have been important for this guy," he said. "He's a 6-foot, 250-pound first baseman/designated hitter. The Mariners had at least two other players ahead of him: Edwin Encarnación and Jay Bruce. They both, basically, did what Vogelbach does and the Mariners traded both of them.

"Then the other veteran player who's better at first base than Vogelbach is, Ryon Healy, has been injured. So, Vogelbach has taken advantange of the opportunity."

'VERY EFFECTIVE'

Thiel said Vogelbach has emerged as a very effective player. He understands how pitchers are pitching him and what to do about it. And he's taking advantange of the pitches he gets.

"He's a very disciplined plate guy," he said. "He gets a lot of walks. In fact, he leads all designated hitters in walks."

Thiel said that's not what designated hitters are known for, but it's been effective. Vogelbach also leads the Mariners in home runs with 20, as of July 3.

'DIFFICULT ASCENT'

Getting to this point wasn't easy for Vogelbach. He was acquired in the middle of the 2016 season from the Chicago Cubs for pitcher Mike Montgomery.

"There was a lot of debate about whether it was a valid trade," Thiel said.

"In the balance of 2016 and through 2017 and 2018, he didn't hit for a lick when he came to the Major Leagues. He was tearing it up in Tacoma (AAA), but that really wasn't doing the Major League club any good.

"In those 47 games that he was up, he hit a collective .197. It looked grim but now, this year, he's really blossomed into an effective hitter. Still a lousy fielder, but they're willing to take the defensive lapses for the offensive punch."

MARINERS AT MIDSEASON

As Mariners fans prepare to watch Vogelbach in the All-Star game, the break also is a good time to assess the team at midseason.

Thiel said they're playing better than they have — after starting hot and fading in May. They're about .500 over the last 25 games. And he sees some glimmers of hope among the younger players, particularly shortstop J.P. Crawford, right fielder Domingo Santana and catcher Omar Narváez.

"There are some of the new players delivering now, but the real happenings are in the minor leagues, especially a young hitter named Jarred Kelenic. Remember this guy's name because he is going to be a star very soon," he said.

"It's not going to be in 2019. The attendance is down. People are understanding now that this isn't going to be any kind of championship team this year.

"But there are glimmers of hope and Danny Vogelbach is part of that."

Never miss an episode again. Subscribe to Sports With Art Thiel with iTunes or Google Play now. You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and Crosscut.com.

Kirsten Kendrick has been hosting Morning Edition on KNKX/KPLU since 2006. She has worked in news radio for more than 30 years. Kirsten is also a sports lover. She handles most sports coverage at the station, including helping produce a two-part series on the 50th anniversary of Title IX and the ongoing series "Going Deep."
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