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Phegley moves past 'emergency situation'

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- When your life has been in jeopardy just by being on a baseball field, there isn’t much else that can scare you.

With that in mind, Chicago White Sox catching prospect Josh Phegley is feeling fearless at the start of big league camp.

Phegley is now the closest he has ever been to achieving his dream of making it to the major leagues, a dream that was nearly derailed during the 2010 season.

After blocking a pitch while behind the plate three years ago, Phegley developed a massive bruise on his thigh. Without pain or soreness, he played the next night before he could get blood work done to possibly find out what ailed him.

“They said, ‘Well, we’ll test your blood tomorrow,’ and I ended up playing that day,” Phegley said. “And then it was just an emergency situation. It was scary at first but we got past it.”

He eventually was diagnosed with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, which essentially meant his blood platelet count was at dangerously low levels. Another ball off the leg, arm or chest could have caused internal bleeding. Drastic measures called for the removal of his spleen.

After playing in just 48 games in 2010 because of his disorder, Phegley bounced back the following year to play 116 games between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte. Last season, the former high school Mr. Baseball from Indiana showed even more improvement with a .266 batting average and 48 RBIs in a full season at Charlotte.

Now he is so close, yet so far when it comes to making it to the major leagues. Tyler Flowers will take over for A.J. Pierzynski as the White Sox’s starting catcher. There is an available spot as a backup, but the White Sox would prefer that Phegley, a former 38th overall selection in the 2009 draft, play every day at Triple-A instead of riding the bench in Chicago.

Maybe there was a time when his current situation would have provided a certain amount of frustration. With some interesting perspective now, a temporary road block isn’t such an extreme concern.

“They said [ITP] is fairly rare but a good amount of people that suffer from it,” said Phegley, who turned 25 this week. “Some people don’t get over it. I got a lot of letters from people. There were people that said, ‘I had it and I don’t have it anymore so good luck.’ And then some other letters that said they were living with it for 60 years now. It was kind of a roller-coaster ride but I’m pretty happy things worked out.”

Completely recovered now, Phegley said he doesn’t even need medication to control the former problem.

“It was more of just a mental struggle, I think, but it was a good learning experience,” he said. “I think I kind of took for granted being able to play every day and go out there. I’ve been extremely healthy all my life, and to have it taken away that quick kind of opened my eyes a little bit. But I’m glad it’s behind me and I learned from it.”

For now all roads to the major leagues look blocked, but as Phegley knows, obstacles can be overcome.