CHICAGO | Whether Josh Phegley can hit big-league pitching or handle the White Sox staff is yet to be determined.
On Monday, though, before his first home start as a Sox catcher, the Terre Haute native showed he can talk a good game about himself.
“Just starting off so well in Charlotte and having a good season to begin with kind of took the pressure off me to kind of just keep playing my game,” the rookie Phegley said.
He was scheduled to his third start overall and batted eighth against the Cubs as Sox manager Robin Ventura looked for any kind of spark for a team that has gone 10-27 since May 26. His first big-league homer in Tampa Bay on Sunday boosted his profile.
Phegley perhaps is the leading edge of a mid-season roster shakeup. Sox TV analyst Bill Melton said Sunday that Phegley should continue to start to help an “offensively-challenged” team.
In a chronically under-productive Sox farm system for position players, Phegley stood out like a beacon. He made a leap forward in his offensive production in Triple-A this season compared to previous years.
“I think it started in spring training with some adjustments in hitting,” Phegley said. “I’ve always had some power and the ability to hit the ball to all fields, gap to gap.
“Just being in the proper hitting position to start with. I chased a lot of pitches out of the zone, kind of lunging, diving because I wasn’t in the right spot to swing the bat. Just to get settled, to like relax, having a whole season in Triple-A last year. (I’m) comfortable with that level, and just being more patient.”
Sox lefty John Danks, a seven-year veteran, liked how Phegley looked catching him on Sunday. However, to ease the first-year player’s transition, he took the lead at times in choosing pitches.
“He did a good job,” Danks said. “I really felt like we were on the same page most of the day. You have go with your gut rather than the catcher’s gut. I think you have to think for yourself a little bit more, maybe, but that’s from a lack of (Phegley’s) knowledge of the hitters — not because he doesn’t know the game.”
Phegley will have a lot on his plate going forward. In addition to making the big jump in batting against big-league pitching, he’ll need to be the “quick learner” Danks said he is to learn the Sox staff.
“The first thing you got to do is to learn the pitching staff and how to run the game at this level,” said Sox bench coach Mark Parent, a former catcher. “But if nobody else is hitting, you better hit, too. That’s where we’re at. Still, first and foremost, you’ve got to learn how to call the game and run the game.”