PHILADELPHIA -- Josh Phegley closes his eyes ever so briefly and you can see his nostrils flare just a twinge, as he stands in front of his locker in the Chicago White Sox clubhouse after a brisk batting practice before the White Sox-Phillies postponed game on Friday.
The White Sox rookie catcher wants to feel it all. Everything. It brings him back to when he was little-recruited high school catcher out of Terre Haute North High School, despite being named Mr. Indiana in 2006. It brings him back to battling Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP) that almost sideswiped his 2010 minor league season, and in turn, almost derailed his major league arrival.
He’s asked about batting seventh, and he just shrugs. He could be batting ninth, it doesn’t matter. He’s here, playing in the majors. A dream come true. And a little more.
It’s why Phegley shakes his head at the wonder of it all. The Terre Haute Yasiel Puig has hit three homers in his first five games (becoming the 29th player in major league history to do so), including a big grand slam in the White Sox’ 6-3 victory over Detroit on Thursday.
Phegley is actually wondering what all the fuss is about.
“I’ve only had four hits, and if three weren’t homers, and one a grand slam, it would be different,” said Phegley, who admitted he’s never had a fast start at any level of baseball before this stint with the White Sox. “It’s nice not to be o-fer the first week, and I’ve heard some people say getting their first hit on their second at-bat is not a bad deal. It took them this many games, or that many games to get their first hit. I’ve been fortunate with the start and it’s allowed me to relax and ease into my game quicker -- not having to really press and not having that many hits.”
Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP) is defined as a rare autoimmune bleeding disorder characterized by a low platelet count that could cause an internal bleed.
ITP bit into Phegley’s 2010 season with Class-A Winston-Salem. But it didn’t curtail his quick rise through the White Sox system, eventually hitting .316 with 15 homers over 231 at-bats for Triple-A Charlotte before his July 5 call-up.
Phegley knew something good was stirring.
“The first pitch I saw at Triple-A was a home run, so that was pretty nice,” Phegley said. “Three home runs in five games, I know, will be a tough pace to keep the rest of the year. The ball doesn’t exactly look like a beach ball to me. I only have four hits. But when I do get the bat on the ball, I’m getting decent trajectory to left field. I’ve only had one hit to the right side, and that was a ground ball. I would like to get more gap-to-gap, stay in the middle of the field. I hit three fly balls to the same spot, and that’s not what I’m looking to do. I’m not the kind of guy who’s looking to crank a homer every time. I’m fortunate to have a start like this. My swing feels pretty good.”
White Sox manager Robin Ventura agrees. He likes the way Phegley has adjusted, then re-adjusted to major league pitching. Phegley smoked a 3-2 breaking ball off of Detroit’s Anibal Sanchez for the grand slam in Thursday’s 6-3 White Sox win.
“Josh was hitting good at Triple-A and he’s earned his way up here, and it’s not one of those where a guy got hurt, he was brought up because he was doing well,” Ventura said. “They’re pitching him a little different and he’s adjusted than the first couple of games. That’s the biggest thing up here. You have to make adjustments all of the time. The longer he’s here the harder it’s going to get. So far he’s done that. That’s a positive sign. It’s nice when you see that.”