Backstop Depth

White Sox have options for post-Pierzynski era





CHICAGO—A.J. Pierzynski has caught 668 games for the White Sox the last five seasons, including four in the World Series. He would love an extension to take his contract beyond 2010 but the Sox aren't biting, at least not yet. They believe their heir apparent is lined up in Tyler Flowers.

And for the first time in many years, they believe they have depth at the position in farm system.

Miguel Gonzalez and Josh Phegley are behind Flowers. Both the 19-year-old Venezuelan and the 21-year-old Indiana product opened eyes in 2009 and could rise through the system quickly to challenge Flowers.

Gonzalez is much more advanced behind the plate but Phegley has shown he can be a strong run-producer for his position.

Gonzalez played in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in 2008 and turned in a strong performance in the short-season Appalachian League in 2009. He hit .311/.385/.503 at Bristol and flashed a plus throwing arm.

"We all think he's going to play in the big leagues," farm director Buddy Bell said. "I don't think it's going to take him that long, either. He's very smart. He has really good instincts, like a lot of Venezuelan players. He already understands calling a game. His hitting isn't bad right now but he's not as strong offensively as he'll be."

The White Sox were able to land Phegley with the 38th pick in the 2009 draft—a compensation pick for the Athletics' signing of Orlando Cabrera—because he was poor defensively behind the plate.

A lot of organizations thought he would have to move to another position, but the Sox felt he was athletic enough to improve into an adequate receiver with lots of work. The first step was a stunning success as Phegley used his plus arm strength to throw out 30 of 52 runners in the low Class A South Atlantic League, but he did have 11 passed balls.

CHI-LITES

• The White Sox traded pitching prospects John Ely and Jon Link to the Dodgers for Juan Pierre. Ely was 14-2, 2.82 at Birmingham last season.

• Righthander Clevelan Santeliz went into the holidays having a strong winter for Magallanes in the Venezuelan League. He had held batters to a .195 average while striking out 27 in 25 innings.