Stephen Vogt believes winning and development go hand in hand

GOODYEAR — Winning.

Manager Stephen Vogt talks about it a lot.

On Thursday morning he was asked about the benefits of having rookie Brayan Rocchio play winter ball in Venezuela in preparation to compete for the shortstop job this season.

“Playing in the big winter ball leagues is the best thing to prepare for playing in the big leagues that you can do as a development thing,” said Vogt. “I know when I played in Venezuela, it prepared me more for the major leagues than any Double-A or Triple-A experience did.

“Getting that experience where every game is Game 7 is important.”

Rocchio hit .328 (40 for 122) with 12 doubles, one homer, and 21 RBI in 37 games for the La Guaira Sharks, who won their first league championship in 38 years.

“For Brayan to be able to play for his hometown team and not only get that experience but win a championship,” said Vogt. “Now he’s hungry to win. You hear me talk a lot about winning. That’s where development happens.

“When you get a taste of that champagne. A taste of that parade. Whatever it is, you want it every single year. It can really propel a player. Brayan has come in with a lot of confidence from that winter-ball experience.”

Rocchio is competing with Gabriel Arias, Tyler Freeman, Jose Tena, and Angel Martinez for the shortstop’s job. Rocchio and Arias are considered the favorites.

Vogt was asked if there was one characteristic that winning teams carry.

“They have each other’s back,” said Vogt. “They genuinely care about each other. Everybody has good baseball players. All 30 teams have phenomenal talent.

“It’s the teams that come together and genuinely want what’s best for their teammates as much as they do for themselves. The winning teams that I’ve been a part of … we had that. If your teammate hits a home run, you were just as excited, if not more, than if you hit one.”

No. 1: Keep it simple

Versatility on MLB rosters has been a trend for several years. Versatile players make it easier to build rosters. They can even keep payrolls in check.

The Guardians’ roster is full of young players who can play more than one position. Vogt’s message to them is simple.

“Make the routine play,” he said. “So often you see a player go out to a position he’s not familiar with and try to make an amazing play. Just make the routine play. I’m trying to teach my 7-year-old son that boring baseball is good baseball. It’s similar to these guys. Make the plays you’re supposed to make.”

No. 2. Testing, testing, testing

Lefty Joey Cantillo threw batting practice Thursday against a hitting group that included Steven Kwan, Jose Ramirez, Josh Naylor, and Ramon Laureano. He more than held his own.

“I’ve seen a focused and determined kid,” said Vogt. “I’ve seen him throw two or three live BPs now. Every time he takes the mound there is a focus and intent about this kid. I want to watch him pitch.”

Cantillo, 24, went 7-4 with a 4.07 ERA in 26 games, including 24 starts, at Class AA Akron and Class AAA Columbus last year. He struck out 146 and walked 69 in 119 1/3 innings.

“He’s got an opportunity to affect the roster this year,” said Vogt. “He could be a big-time arm for us. His focus and intent stand out for me when he’s on the mound.”

No. 3. Feeling better

Outfielder George Valera had a hard season last year. He injured his surgically repaired right hand in spring training and missed the first two months of the regular season.

When Valera was finally activated, he reported to Columbus on May 11. He played five games before a hamstring injury put him on the injured list again until June 17.

There was also a six-game suspension for his part in an on-field fight.

“It was just a weird year,” said Valera. “I spent this offseason training in the Dominican with my trainer. I also spent a month in Goodyear after the season. We put in some good work. “

Valera, 23, hit .211 (54 for 256) with 10 homers and 35 RBI in 73 games at Columbus.

“It was tough,” said Valera, Cleveland’s No. 5 prospect according to “My hand was really bugging me all last year. But I thank God, I feel good. I did a lot of rehab on my hand in the offseason. The team gave that time to get ready for this season.”