ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Robin Ventura didn’t shy away from a statement Friday about Josh Phegley’s promotion and playing time.
The White Sox manager first made a declaration he intends to play Phegley when he constructed the lineup and later reiterated his decision to the media.
How much he plans to play Phegley, who was promoted from Triple-A Charlotte and joined the team before it’s series opener against the Tampa Bay Rays, Ventura hasn’t made abundantly clear. For now, Phegley and Tyler Flowers will share the load, though Ventura was fuzzy on the details of how much.
But this much is certain: Phegley, who hit .316 with 15 homers and 41 RBIs in 61 games at Charlotte, isn’t here to sit on the bench.
“He’s here to play,” Ventura said. “He’s earned the right to come up and that’s part of playing well in Triple-A. He’s earned a promotion.”
Phegley did so by staying focused on what was in front of him.
He didn’t pay attention to the major league level or the fact that Flowers has struggled at times this season. He didn’t worry about why he had or hadn’t been promoted.
He just played.
“The only way you can do (perform well) is focus on what you are doing down there and helping that team out,” Phegley said. “If I was worried about what was going on up here, the focus and things wouldn’t have been there. It took some of the pressure off of myself.”
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Phegley’s play put the pressure on the White Sox to make a move.
Assistant general manager Buddy Bell said on Friday that Phegley forced the team’s hand.
Bell echoed the sentiments of the coaching staff and said Flowers has done a good job handling the rotation and bullpen and has the trust of his pitchers. But he also noted that Phegley made it impossible for the White Sox to keep him in the minors any longer, that he shares the same ability to call a game.
“He’s good at following a plan as far as pitchers are concerned,” Bell said. “He’s been really good. (Pitching coach Don Cooper) will find that he retains things pretty good.”
As of Friday, neither catcher had been informed of any plans the team has for playing time. Flowers said Phegley’s promotion reminds him of his first call to the majors and he’s excited for the Indiana University-product.
“I’m going to try and help him as much as I can just like Hector (Gimenez) and I tried to work together,” Flowers said. “You know I don’t know what’s going to happen with everything, so we’ll see. I’m just going to keep working hard and do the best I can.”
Phegley noted he only knew about Friday and divulged that Flowers, who has helped him every spring training, had already reached out to him when he arrived in the clubhouse.
“I really appreciate that,” Phegley said.
Both Ventura and Bell aren’t averse to competition between Flowers -- who is hitting .208 with eight homers and 22 RBIs -- and Phegley.
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Earlier this week, a team source said the club hopes a position battle would push Flowers to improve his performance. Of late, Flowers has cleaned up a technical glitch that attributed to his seven passed balls.
Ventura thinks a battle for playing time can only help.
“That’s part of when you have a team and have guys who play the same position, I don’t think that’s a problem,” Ventura said. “It happens all the time and for me, it’s fine. They’re going to get their shot to play. But competition, I think that’s good for a team.”
Phegley hopes to carry over the same approach that led to his success with Charlotte. He knows the leap he is making is significant. But he also is familiar with the White Sox pitching staff and is confident after a strong first half.
“I just have to carry that over,” Phegley said. “I think I handled the staff pretty well in Charlotte. And you know I’ve seen some of these guys in spring and I’m comfortable catching most of them. I’ve got a lot of confidence in my defensive abilities and hopefully we can showcase that.”
He should have plenty of chances to do so.