PHOENIX — The next month will see Oakland Athletics fans get used to a boatload of new pitchers who figure to have an impact in Oakland in 2014.
During that same span, the Athletics' catching corps will have to come up to speed with those pitchers, learning how they like to attack hitters, how much confidence they have in their different pitches and how much they need a catcher's help.
Stephen Vogt has been down this road before. The A's purchased his contract from Tampa Bay last year, bringing him to an organization whose pitchers he didn't know. The knowledge gap wasn't a deal-breaker because, as assistant general manager Farhan Zaidi said, "we were getting him for depth" and there was going to be time to break him in slowly.
It didn't happen quite that way.
Vogt came up for a week in June when the A's needed some backup, went back to Triple-A Sacramento, then had to be called up July 25 when the A's placed John Jaso on the seven-day disabled list with a concussion. Jaso never returned, leaving Vogt the sole lefty-hitting catcher on the roster, sharing playing time with right-handers Derek Norris and Kurt Suzuki.
"It was really a smooth transition," starting pitcher A.J. Griffin said of Vogt. "How well we did is a testament to how well he played and how fast he learned."
The A's did well enough to win the American League West, and in the playoffs, it was Vogt, who hit .242 with four homers in the regular season, starting all five games of the A.L. Division Series. In Game 2, it was his bases-loaded single in the ninth inning that gave the A's and Grant Balfour a 1-0 win after Sonny Gray had teamed with Vogt to shut out the Detroit Tigers for eight innings.
Now Jaso, who was an impact player (.271 batting average, .387 on-base percentage), is back. Norris, seen as the catcher of the future, is in the mix, too, along with Vogt.
A's pitchers enjoy working with Vogt well enough that he and Norris could wind up sharing the job. In that plan, Jaso would serve at D.H.
"He has a good idea of what (pitchers) want to throw," starter Jarrod Parker said of Vogt, "and he knows what they should throw."
Vogt, an outfielder and first baseman in addition to catching with Tampa Bay, is getting a chance to do nothing but catch for the first time in the big leagues. But he's not getting ahead of himself.
"Last year was a special team, and I was lucky to come here to be part of it," he said. "It was a dream come true."
Now, however, "I am here trying to win a job," he said.
"Being part of a pennant race was the greatest thing I'd been through. Now we have six or seven new pitchers. It's not like having to learn a whole new staff. But it's part of preparing to win.
"Now that I'm not in the outfield or at first base, there's more clarity about my role."
Or there would be if there weren't so many catchers and first basemen in camp. In addition to Vogt, Norris and Jaso, the A's brought in another veteran, Chris Gimenez, who has played in the big leagues with the Cleveland, Seattle and Tampa Bay. At first base, if both Brandon Moss and Daric Barton make the team, there likely will only be room for two catchers.
"Catching is a really deep position here," Vogt said. "We all know that. But look at last year. We needed that depth, plus Kurt, just to get through the second half of the season."