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Saturday, August 24, 2013
As Pierzynski watches, Phegley delivers

By Doug Padilla

CHICAGO -- It hasn't been a season to remember for Chicago White Sox catchers, so with the team's old backstop in the house, Josh Phegley tried to do something about it.

Digging in at the plate in the ninth inning in front of Texas Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski, Phegley ripped a game-ending single into left field to give the White Sox a 3-2 victory. It was the first game-ending hit for Phegley in his 37th career game.

Phegley entered batting just .176 (15-for-85) over his past 25 games, looking nothing like the aggressive hitter that burst upon the scene in early July.

Josh Phegley
Josh Phegley is mobbed by his teammates after his single to left in the ninth lifted the White Sox to a 3-2 win over the Rangers.
"The offense is going to come. I'm not real worried about it," said Phegley, who entered the game in the eighth inning after Jeff Keppinger batted for starting catcher Tyler Flowers. "But to come through in that situation for the team is awesome. I just want to do whatever I can to help the team, and in that specific moment, I needed to get a base hit so we could go home, and came through."

Combining their numbers this season, White Sox catchers entered play Saturday last in the American league in runs (41), hits (86), batting average (.197) and on-base percentage (.241).

Flowers was given his first full-time catching job at the start of the season but has since been replaced by the rookie Phegley. Highlighting their combined struggles has been the presence this weekend of Pierzynski, who was solid for eight seasons in a White Sox uniform and was a fan favorite before moving on to the Rangers.

If Flowers and Phegley wondered how much White Sox fans appreciated Pierzynski, it has been on display often. Pierzynski has been cheered loudly when the pregame lineups are announced, when he comes to the plate and even when he jogs to the bullpen before the game to warm-up the starting pitcher.

Despite not hitting well of late, Phegley was given the start for every game of the just-completed trip. The White Sox went 6-1 mostly because of solid pitching. White Sox pitchers do own a 3.59 ERA when Phegley is behind the plate this season.

On Saturday, Flowers was actually given his first start since Aug. 14.

But even as the young catchers piece things together on defense, the offense has been a different story. And as the season drags on, it's only getting worse. When the weekend began, the White Sox catchers had combined to bat just .157 since July 22, another number that was easily worst in baseball.

Pierzynski said he has only a vague idea of what has happened to the White Sox catchers this season.

"I wasn't watching that closely, but I know Josh is up now and he's playing a little bit more than Tyler is," Pierzynski said. "I know he got off to a good start, and I knew from spring trainings that he had a chance to be good, too, from seeing him and being around him. He's a good guy. It's hard to walk in [and be a starter]. Not a lot of guys can walk in during their first year and have success."

Phegley's confidence has yet to waver, though. He always has been able to hit at every level he has played, and he has no doubt he can have success with enough opportunities.

"It's kind of been a slow road since I've been up here, for me," Phegley said. "And I know [Flowers] hasn't had a good go at it this year, but I know he's a good hitter. Going into the season they named him the starting catcher, and I was sent to Triple-A and I thought he'd have a tremendous season. He's a good hitter and it just hasn't gone that way for us. But we're going to keep swinging it. We've got a whole month left and we're not going to quit and we're going to keep trying to win ballgames."