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Veteran Vogelsong targeted Twins as team on the rise

MINNEAPOLIS -- Ryan Vogelsong has pitched in 33 different big-league ballparks since reaching the majors in 2000, but he's never worked in the state of Minnesota.

Sep 11, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Ryan Vogelsong (14) delivers a pitch against the Cincinnati Reds during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 11, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Ryan Vogelsong (14) delivers a pitch against the Cincinnati Reds during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS - Ryan Vogelsong has pitched in 33 different big-league ballparks since reaching the majors in 2000, but he's never worked in the state of Minnesota.

That figures to change in 2017 after the 39-year-old right-hander agreed this week to a minor-league deal with the Twins, one of the few teams Vogelsong and his agent targeted this offseason.

"We weren't out there trying to market Ryan to the world," said Dave Meier, the former Twins outfielder who has represented Vogelsong throughout a professional career that began with his fifth-round selection out of Kutztown (Pa.) University in 1998.

"When the season ended, we had gone club by club and we narrowed this down to a very short list. I'm talking about two or three teams. Minnesota was always in that mix."

Despite a seemingly crowded Twins rotation, Vogelsong is viewed more as a potential starting option rather than a swingman. After making $2 million last season with the Pittsburgh Pirates, for whom he posted a 4.81 earned-run average in 82β…“ innings, Vogelsong agreed to a lower base salary with a higher upside should he max out his performance bonuses.

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According to Meier, the signing of Jason Castro proved a strong draw. Castro, who signed a three-year deal in November, ranks among the game's best pitch framers behind the plate.

"Obviously, Vogey doesn't throw 96-97 mph anymore, like he did when he was 25," Meier said. "He has evolved, like all these guys do over time, and a large part of his game is setting hitters up, working the corners. Having a guy like Castro back there is going to be a huge asset."

Vogelsong missed more than two months after taking a Jordan Lyles fastball off his face last May, but he was back throwing off a mound inside of two weeks. In 12 starts after returning in early August, Vogelsong posted a 5.19 ERA with eight homers and 30 walks allowed in 60β…” innings.

Vogelsong's career path also includes Tommy John surgery in 2001, three seasons in Japan (2007-09) and two World Series rings with the San Francisco Giants, for whom he posted a 2.92 ERA in 37 postseason innings (seven starts) in 2012 and 2014. He was a National League all-star in 2011 and has more than $20 million in career earnings.

The Twins held discussions with Meier about signing Vogelsong two winters ago before the pitcher returned to the Giants on a one-year, $4 million deal.

"They took their lumps a little bit last year," Meier said, "but when you look beyond the record, it really isn't too dissimilar to Houston if you roll the clock back two or three years. That really appealed to Ryan."

Tepesch agrees

The Twins also agreed to a minor-league deal with right-hander Nick Tepesch, according to a person with direct knowledge.

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Tepesch, 28, would carry a $1 million salary if he's added to the 40-man roster. There are no performance bonuses in the deal for Tepesch, who would remain under club control via arbitration through the 2020 season.

Released by the Texas Rangers last summer after missing the entire 2015 season following surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome, Tepesch gave up five runs in four innings in his only big-league start with the Los Angeles Dodgers last year.

In 22 outings (19 starts) in Triple-A last season for the Rangers, Dodgers, A's and Royals, Tepesch posted a 3.96 ERA in 116 innings. The former Missouri teammate of Twins starter Kyle Gibson is 9-18 with a 4.68 ERA in 43 big-league outings.

New voices

Former Twins players Torii Hunter and LaTroy Hawkins, brought back this offseason as special assistants in the front office, have added Fox Sports North broadcast duties to their list of responsibilities.

The popular personalities join holdovers Jack Morris and Roy Smalley as booth backups to primary TV analyst Bert Blyleven. Dick Bremer, the Twins' TV play-by-play man, returns for a 34th consecutive season in the booth.

Audra Martin, Marney Gellner and Kevin Gorg return as field reporters for the network, with Tom Hanneman, Anthony LaPanta and Tim Laudner again handling pre- and postgame duties.

Briefly

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FSN also announced a spring training broadcast schedule of 11 games, starting March 4 with a home game at Hammond Stadium against the Toronto Blue Jays. The full schedule is as follows: March 4 vs Toronto, noon; March 6 vs. St. Louis, noon; March 8 vs. Team USA, 6 p.m.; March 11 vs. Boston, noon; March 12 vs. Baltimore, noon; March 13 vs. Tampa Bay, noon; March 15 vs. St. Louis, noon; March 16 at St. Louis (Jupiter, Fla.), noon; March 24 vs. Baltimore, 6 p.m.; March 26 vs. Boston, noon; and March 28 vs. Tampa Bay, noon.

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