Guardians’ Vogt excited for 1st spring game as he launches managerial career

GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) — Stephen Vogt likened Saturday’s spring training opener to a new school year.

“There’s something so exciting about the first day,” the new Cleveland Guardians manager said before his dugout debut against Cincinnati at Goodyear Ballpark. “It’s like the first day of school, you have the new outfit you picked out, haircut, all those things. It’s the same feeling. It’s a fresh start.

“You just got done working for 4 1/2 months, working for today, and you get to see your hard work pay off for the first time. It’s why we do this.”

Vogt is doing this for the first time, taking over for Terry Francona in Cleveland. The 39-year-old is only one season removed from his playing career, which lasted 10 years with six teams. Six of those years were with Oakland, where he made two All-Star teams in the only seasons in which he played 100 or more games.

Saturday’s Cactus League game didn’t produce a win, as the Reds won 4-0 and held the Guardians to seven singles. But Vogt said there were no snafus in the dugout. Ten pitchers worked for Cleveland, with one mid-inning change.

“Everything I thought was pretty clean,” Vogt said. “The process of the game went pretty smooth.”

Vogt, a 12th-round draft pick by Tampa Bay in 2007, spent most of his career as a backup or platoon catcher, playing some first base, on good teams and bad. All of which figures to be good training for dealing with a myriad of personalities.

Francona was a master of that. The beloved manager known as Tito led Cleveland to six playoff appearances and the 2016 American League pennant in his 11 seasons in becoming the franchise’s winningest skipper. There’s no replacing him, so Vogt will stick to being himself.

“Everyone is their own individual. Tito was absolutely phenomenal and we’re all going to miss him,” said first baseman Josh Naylor, coming off a season in which he hit .305 with 97 RBI. “But I think it’s important for us to look (ahead). We have to focus on the now.”

It’s early but reviews are positive so far.

“I like a guy who’s always happy,” said closer Emmanuel Clase. “He’s always finding ways to communicate with me and the other players, and he’s made it very easy for me to work in camp.”

“Awesome. Super high energy guy, loves the game, loves to win,” Naylor said of Vogt. “Super thankful for him and excited for what the future holds.”

Some of the old hands are still around. Pitching coach Carl Willis and first base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. return to provide some continuity. Another familiar face back in Cleveland is pitcher Carlos Carrasco, who started Saturday’s game with a scoreless inning. He competed against Vogt, holding his new boss to a single in 12 at-bats.

“It’s been good, I’ve known him for a long time,” Carrasco said. “I’m glad that he’s here now.”

Carrasco, who turns 37 next month, pitched for Cleveland for 11 years, averaging 15 wins a season between 2015-18. He said he was glad to be “home.”

“I’m glad that I came back here,” said Carrasco, who spent the last three injury-plagued seasons with the New York Mets. “I was so nervous I couldn’t feel the ball. I’ve been playing a long time but I was still so nervous going to the mound.”

At this early stage of spring training, emotions are high.

“I’m excited for everybody to be in the dugout,” Vogt said. “That’s when you bond with your teammates, that’s when you talk baseball. There’s no phones, there’s no distractions. You’re watching the game, and you’re just talking, getting to know each other. That’s what’s important about spring training.”