Pop start: Josh Phegley has 3 HRs after 5 games
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org July 12, 2013 9:04PM
In five games since being called up, catcher Josh Phegley (36) already has driven in eight runs. | Carlos Osorio~AP
The facts: Game 1, 2:05 p.m., CSN, 670-AM, 97.5-FM.
Game 2, 7:15 p.m., CSN,
The starters: Game 1, John Danks (2-6, 4.31 ERA) vs. Jonathan Pettibone (5-3, 3.84). Game 2, Hector Santiago (3-5, 3.49) vs. John Lannan (2-3, 4.23).
Updated: August 14, 2013 6:18AM
PHILADELPHIA — Baseball is Josh Phegley’s love and livelihood. When it was taken away because of a rare blood disorder, the White Sox rookie catcher realized what the game meant to him on a whole new level.
He wondered if he’d ever play again.
“It did give me a different outlook when I got back,’’ Phegley said Friday, reflecting on being limited to 48 games as a minor-leaguer in 2010. “Who knew if I’d ever make it back? It showed me not to take it for granted and to love every second of being back on the field and being able to play.’’
Phegley, who was scheduled to start again at catcher in the game Friday night against the Phillies that was postponed by rain, has caught the fancy of Sox fans in his five games behind the plate since getting called up from Class AAA Charlotte. He has three home runs, including a pivotal grand slam Thursday against the Tigers.
To think there was a time he thought he might not catch again.
“It was a big mystery,’’ he said of his bout with ITP, or idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, a blood clotting disorder caused by an abnormally low blood platelet count. When steroids and other pharmaceuticals failed as remedies, doctors removed his spleen, and he has been normal since.
And confident. Phegley was batting .316 with 15 homers and 41 RBI at Charlotte when he got called up last week, and he wasn’t intimidated by the step up in class.
“I was not really concerned,’’ said Phegley, a 2009 sandwich pick out of Indiana. “The one thing I try to keep in mind is everyone up here has played in the minor leagues at some point. Some of those guys I have seen down there are going to be your next David Prices and guys who throw like that. They’re smarter, they’ve got more reps, more experience and their plan is going to be a lot better. One point of emphasis for me is to kind of have my plan and stick to it and do my homework on my end and keep using the same approach.’’
Phegley’s homers have come against Price, Anibal Sanchez and Matt Garza, all of them top-level arms. According to Elias and STATS, he is the first player in franchise history to hit a grand slam and drive in eight runs in his first five games, and he’s the third Sox player to hit three homers over his five career games (Magglio Ordonez in 1997, Zeke Bonura in 1934). Perhaps the most encouraging thing manager Robin Ventura has seen is Phegley’s ability to adjust.
“He went through a stretch where guys were pitching him different than they might have in the first couple of games, and he’s adjusted,’’ Ventura said. “That’s the biggest thing up here. You have to make adjustments all the time, and they’re going to figure out how to get you out, and you have to figure out how to get a hit. And the longer he’s here, the harder it’s going to get. He’s had to make adjustments, and so far he’s done it in a game with Sanchez — and that’s a positive sign when you see guys do that.’’
“It’s been really fun,’’ Phegley said. “It’s kind of a big surprise to me to have so many home runs this early. I’d like to mix in some singles and doubles, but I’ll take some home runs when I can get them, especially the big one Thursday. We needed it for the ‘W,’ so that was big.’’