Phegley Fights Back For White Sox

CHICAGO—Before A.J. Pierzynski made a last-second switch and re-signed, the White Sox felt somewhat encouraged about the long-term future of their catching position.

Remaining in a wait-and-see mode is Tyler Flowers, who took a step back in 2010 but still managed to hit 16 home runs at Triple-A Charlotte. Miguel Gonzalez, 20, made a favorable impression last spring as a non-roster invitee, and Michael Blanke, a 14th-round selection last year from Tampa, was a Rookie-level Pioneer League all-star after batting .329/.500/.508 in 62 games.

But the biggest comeback involves Josh Phegley, whose future appeared uncertain less than a year ago.

Phegley, 22, a supplemental first-round pick in 2009, missed the first half of the 2010 season because of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a condition that results in low blood platelets. He returned to play 48 games at three levels, finishing the season by batting .292/.316/.431 in 18 games at Double-A Birmingham. But the condition resurfaced on the first morning of the Arizona Fall League season, where Phegley was scheduled to play for the Peoria Saguaros.

Phegley had his spleen removed on Nov. 5, as agent Joe Bick said that doctors believed that the platelets were being destroyed in the spleen. Since then, Phegley's platelet counts have stabilized at safe levels over a four-week period of tests. He has resumed workouts in preparation for spring training on schedule, and he will be tested every two weeks instead of once a week.

"We're keeping our fingers crossed," farm director Buddy Bell said of Phegley's rebound. "This guy is not in awe of anything. He's as tough as nails."

Phegley stands a strong chance to improve as long as he stays healthy. He hit 17 home runs in 2009 at Indiana and has hit 14 home runs in 372 professional at-bats.

"(Catching instructor) John Orton likes his leadership qualities," Bell said. "He's an old-school player, and we're looking forward to seeing him make progress."


• The Sox are expected to announce the hiring of longtime scout Pablo Cruz to fortify efforts in Latin America after the team's signing bonus skimming scandal. Cruz was instrumental in the signing of Aramis Ramirez with Pittsburgh and recently worked for the Mets.

• Area scout Mike Shirley was promoted to a supervisor position. Shirley's territory included Michigan, where the Sox signed recent draft picks Clayton Richard (now with the Padres), Chris Getz (Royals) and John Ely (Dodgers).