Wednesday, March 19, 2014
White Sox option Josh Phegley, Andre Rienzo to Triple-A
But with just 12 days remaining until the home opener, the first significant decisions of the spring were made on Wednesday as catcher Josh Phegley and pitcher Andre Rienzo were optioned to Triple-A Charlotte.
For better or for worse, the Sox have decided to give it another go with Tyler Flowers as their starting catcher. Manager Robin Ventura named Flowers the starter on Sunday, and that gave Phegley a pretty good idea his season would be starting in Charlotte. He seems to be taking it pretty well, though.
“I believe I'm a starter and I can be a front-line starter in the big leagues, but there just needs to be some improvement,” Phegley told the Chicago Tribune's Colleen Kane. “And I think sitting, catching every four, five days, I don't think that’s going to do me any justice. I want to play every day, and I'd like to help this club. It's everyone's goal to be a big leaguer. I want to be a starter, and going to Charlotte and playing every day is going to help my game out, so I'm all for it.”
That's the approach Phegley needs. This is a big year for him. Unlike Flowers -- who is who he is at this point -- I think Phegley still has some upside in his game both offensively and defensively. But at age 26, he's moving into an area where he's not going to be considered a prospect anymore. He needs to make that step forward and prove he can be a starting catcher in the big leagues, and he needs to do it soon.
With Phegley headed to the minors, that leaves Rule 5 draft pick Adrian Nieto and Hector Gimenez in camp competing for the backup catching role. I'll bet Nieto sticks, because the Sox would have to offer him back to the Washington Nationals if he doesn't. At age 24, Nieto could develop into a useful player, whereas the 31-year-old Gimenez is nothing more than a career minor leaguer.
Rienzo made 10 starts for the Sox at the end of 2013, but as expected, top prospect Erik Johnson and free-agent acquisition Felipe Paulino have pushed Rienzo out of the starting rotation. I thought Rienzo had a shot at sticking in the big leagues as a long reliever, but perhaps Sox brass sees him as a pitcher who needs to stay stretched out as a starter, so that he can be called up and step into the rotation in the event the team has an injury to one of its starting pitchers.
In other moves, pitcher Eric Surkamp was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte. Pitchers Chris Beck and Cody Winiarski and infielder Andy Wilkins were reassigned to minor league camp. All of those moves were expected.