Before Saturday night’s game against the Royals, Tyler Flowers and Josh Phegley sat in the White Sox clubhouse and played a game of cards.
It was a light-hearted game -- something Phegley called Montana poker -- but it served as a microcosm of the type of relationship the two have developed since Phegley was promoted from Triple-A Charlotte back at the beginning of the month. The two competed, albeit friendly, and in the end, Phegley won.
Earlier this week, Flowers said that he hasn’t given up on the idea that he’ll be the White Sox starting catcher, though he’s currently on the short end of the playing-time stick, with Phegley starting all but five games since his promotion. Still, Phegley, who realizes there’s competition between the two, said the relationship has developed well.
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“It’s been great,” Phegley said. “I just kicked his butt in a little Montana poker there. But he’s been there every step I’ve been up here just offering any kind of advice and helping out. I can go to him if I’ve got a question and vice versa, though he’s the experienced one, so he doesn’t ask me too many questions. We get along great, and it’s fun having him here.”
Fourteen games are all that make up Phegley’s major league career, and though it was met with much fanfare, he’s hit just .240 with a .235 on-base percentage and three homers in those games.
Phegley’s edge in playing time is due to the fact that Flowers’ season is going quite poorly. The more veteran backstop is hitting just .206 with nine homers in 71 games this season.
Still, though competition for playing time is ongoing, it doesn’t mean that Flowers’ hasn’t lent a hand to the youngster. Phegley said he’s provided him with plenty of encouragement and advice along the way.
“Not really anything spectacular, just kind of little tips and tricks here and there, like catching a certain a guy’s pitch,” Phegley said of Flowers’ tutelage. “In between innings last night, when he was picking me up like if I was done hitting ... he’d let me know, ‘Hey, his cutter looks really good right now, so that’s a good pitch to go with.’ He’s just offering me anything he can to help me out. It’s much appreciated.”
Manager Robin Ventura said he’s not particularly keeping an eye on the two’s relationship, but he said that they’re both handling things well.
“I don’t sit around and try and watch that,” Ventura said. “I think Flo’s a pro and he understands kind of what’s going on. They both understand what’s going on. I think if it goes to a point where they’re not trying to help us win, then something would happen. But you understand it’s got to be competitive. Each guy wants to play, you get that part. But if you’re doing something that’s not trying to help us win, then it’s going to be a negative.”
In the end, Phegley isn’t naïve, and he knows the veteran mentor is going after the same thing he is. But he also knows -- and by all accounts so does Flowers -- that being teammates comes first.
“You’re always going to have that, pushing each other,” Phegley said. “I’m sure everybody wants a starting job on the team. But it’s more of a collaborative effort to win ballgames. When he’s in there, I’m trying to help him as much as I can. When I’m in there, he’s definitely helping me any way he can.”