GLENDALE, Ariz. -- If Josh Phegley was crestfallen over the news this weekend that Tyler Flowers will get the first crack at the Chicago White Sox’s starting catcher job, he was doing an excellent job of disguising it.
Manager Robin Ventura said Saturday that the job was “more or less” Flowers’ to lose, a somewhat unexpected statement after it was believed that the position would be an open competition this spring. Just don’t tell Phegley the odds might be stacked against him.
“I’m just here to show them what I can do,” Phegley said. “They’ve seen me enough but there is some competition for the job. That’s what we all want.”
Like Flowers, Phegley struggled on offense last season after getting his first chance to play in the big leagues. He had a .206 batting average and a .299 slugging percentage in 65 games with four home runs and 22 RBIs.
Other than his hot start when he had two home runs in his first three games and three in his first five games, Phegley’s first big-league stint was short on positives. The thing about Phegley, though, is that he typically starts slow every time he advances a level only to blossom after an adjustment period.
“I have all the confidence in the world that once I get my bearings, adjust to the pitching and the speed of the level, I’m going to be a good player,” he said.
The only question now is when Phegley will get another chance to get his bearings. If Flowers is the Opening Day catcher the White Sox will more than likely send Phegley back to Triple-A Charlotte to make sure he is playing every day.
Backing up Flowers in the major leagues won’t help his development, and platooning Phegley and Flowers at the major league level won’t help either to get in sync offensively.
All Phegley can rely on is that whatever role he gets, whether it be in the major leagues or at Triple-A, he will get everyday work. And despite his struggles with the White Sox, he can use the experience as a learning tool. He was asked what he can take from his 65 games in a White Sox uniform last season.
“Just believing I can hit at that level,” he said. “I started off really well when they called me up, then I was struggling, pressing, trying to do too much.”
His lessons weren’t just limited to what was happening on the field. He learned a little about the team dynamic as well.
“Kind of the attitude surrounding the club last year and how negative it was, everyone was out there trying to do way more than they were capable of instead of just playing the game,” he said. “So what I got out of last year was, I’m a big leaguer, I can play up there and just trust myself.”