- Associated Press - Sunday, February 21, 2016

MESA, Ariz. (AP) - Stephen Vogt is shagging balls in the outfield, catching bullpens again and looking mobile running through agility drills on the side in a delightful mood as usual.

Not many signs that he is limited as spring training began Sunday for the Athletics.

Vogt is pushing the pace in his rehab from elbow surgery last month, and that comes as no surprise to anyone who knows the Oakland catcher and how much he loves to be on the field.

“I feel really good, three weeks out,” Vogt said when pitchers and catchers reported to A’s spring training Saturday at Hohokam Stadium. “I’d say I’m right on pace for where I should be right now.”

While he is catching bullpens - without the throwing part back to the pitcher yet - he also hopes to begin hitting off a tee soon as he rehabs from arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow.

Manager Bob Melvin said that Vogt would likely begin to get in Cactus League games by the second week or so, while making sure he is fresh for opening day.

“I didn’t expect him to be swinging a bat at this point. He’s going to do all the drills. He’s going to catch bullpens and so forth,” Melvin said Sunday. “We’ll be able to move him along but really there’s no rush with him. Last year he was quite a bit behind and had a great first half. We’re not too concerned with him.”

Vogt had the procedure Jan. 29 in San Francisco to have dead tissue removed from the elbow joint as well as a bone chip. While the elbow issue didn’t restrict him from doing his offseason program, when he began throwing in the winter it was more an aggravation and “a little uncomfortable,” something he initially figured it was just wear and tear after a long year. On full-speed swings was when he felt the most pain.

“Any time you finish a season you feel banged up and you have a lot of different things you feel,” Vogt said. “I thought it would just go away. I didn’t know what it was. When I ramped up baseball activity the pain was right there again. Fortunately we were able to get it checked out in time to not miss any time. This is my first elbow surgery, just add it to the list. It was very non-invasive. I feel great.”

A first-time All-Star last season, Vogt batted .261 with 18 home runs and 71 RBIs in 136 games for the last-place A’s.

Vogt caught bullpens all of the past week, including new relievers Liam Hendriks and Ryan Madson, and he has been taking dry swings with the hopes of hitting off the tee in the coming days. On Sunday, he caught closer Sean Doolittle and new reliever Marc Rzepczynski.

Vogt is following orders from the medical staff each day.

“I’m trying not to ask any questions,” he said. “I do better when I show up and they tell me what I’m going to do that day. I feel like I’m back to full range of motion three weeks out. It already feels better than it did going into surgery.”

NOTES: Ace Sonny Gray threw his first bullpen session Sunday. He said he has learned some things about how to approach camp as he approaches his fourth season. “Take it easier early and get a feel for yourself on the mound again. You don’t have to come out full bullets Day 1,” Gray said. “In 2012, 2013, even 2014 a little bit, came out and was still trying to prove myself … trying to fight for that opening day spot.” . LHP closer Sean Doolittle has no restrictions after he was limited to 12 outings and 13 2-3 innings in 2015 - going 1-0 with a 3.95 ERA and four saves - because of a shoulder strain. “No training wheels,” he said. Melvin, on having Doolittle and brother Ryan together in camp: “I think I can distinguish between the two. I’m glad that one throws right-handed and the other throws left-handed. It is cool. … My guess is we’ll see one with the other following him quite a bit.”… RHP Henderson Alvarez, who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery last July with Miami, is playing catch from 130 feet and could get off a mound in March but is unlikely to pitch for the A’s until May.


AP freelance writer Jose M. Romero contributed to this report.

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