Sox’ Phegley tries to meet demands
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Staff Reporter September 5, 2013 10:05PM
Updated: October 7, 2013 1:33PM
BALTIMORE — Josh Phegley’s every move is being watched as he tries to prove he’s starting-catcher material.
The White Sox would like to see more hits. They’d like to see fewer passed balls. And some pitchers wouldn’t mind seeing him call a few more pitches that work to their strengths rather than stick exclusively to what the scouting report shows about hitters’ weaknesses.
Other than that, the demands aren’t too high.
Phegley knows much is required of a player in his position: Take care of the pitching staff, take some pitches off unprotected parts of your body and grind out four at-bats every night. He has this much going for him: The right people in the organization believe he can be a No. 1, so he will get a fair shake at proving it.
“It can be difficult with a young catcher trying to find his own way and establish himself behind the plate — as well as offense, which is a whole other [challenging] ballgame,’’ pitching coach Don Cooper said. “Doing that with some young pitchers at times, that can get a little hairy.’’
After putting up big offensive numbers at Class AAA Charlotte, Phegley was called up July 5. Tyler Flowers, who had been given the No. 1 job in spring training, was struggling offensively with the rest of the Sox’ lineup, opening the door.
Phegley has started 42 games, including 27 of the last 29, which earned him a rest against the Orioles on Thursday night.
His play has been acceptable “in spurts, I think,’’ he said.
“I’ve shown them what I’m capable of, but consistency is what they’re looking for. I know I can perform at every aspect of this game at the major-league level, but I just have to do it day in and day out. I’ve had some games where I wasn’t so good behind the plate and had more than a few games [like that] at the plate. I just want to get consistent and perform every day and try to be that backstop that they need.’’
Phegley is batting .211 with four home runs and 19 RBI. He has struck out 29 times and walked twice.
“This guy is coming up, and on a daily basis, he’s seen much better pitching than he’s seen before,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. “It’s finding a way to get through that.’’
Catching instructor John Orton from the player-development staff is traveling with the team, and coaches Mark Salas and Mark Parent, both former catchers, are also around for defensive guidance. Phegley has thrown out seven of 26 base-stealers (26 percent) and allowed seven passed balls.
“The game moves pretty fast up here, and I’m just kind of getting into a groove mentally with the thinking process, especially really getting to know this pitching staff and how they’ve been throwing,’’ Phegley said.
The Sox could trade Flowers in the offseason. Signing or trading for a veteran presence to complement Phegley — preferably a left-handed bat — is a possibility, too. Whatever, the door remains open for Phegley to step through.
“Overall, he’s doing a pretty good job,’’ Cooper said. “He’s made some mistakes here and there, but I don’t think they’re all that often, and it’s not rare for the scenario we’ve got [with a young pitching staff].’’
“I’ve been impressed,’’ left-hander John Danks said. “For a guy just coming up, for him to handle the staff, there is some learning to do, but that’s all of us. I’m impressed with how hard he works and studies up before games. He has a plan, he has an idea of what we want to do.’’