9/12/2013 8:38 P.M. ET
Birmingham inching closer to Southern League title
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- While the White Sox won't be part of the 2013 playoffs, their Double-A affiliate in Birmingham moved one step closer to a Southern League title Wednesday with an 8-3 victory over Mobile in Game 1 of the championship series.
Chris Bassitt earned the victory with seven strikeouts over five scoreless innings. Cody Puckett had three hits, including a homer, and Micah Johnson had two hits and two RBIs.
"Last night's win was a great momentum builder," Birmingham manager Julio Vinas said. "Our pitching was really good. We pounded the zone and made their guys swing it and used our defense behind to pull it off. We did really well against their best pitcher [Archie Bradley]."
Year two contrasts year one for Ventura
CHICAGO -- Following an 8-6 loss to Max Scherzer and the Tigers on Sept. 12, 2012, the White Sox still sat atop the American League Central by one game over Detroit.
Needless to say, the second year of Robin Ventura's managerial career has been quite different than the first. This 2013 September story focuses on player development, with the White Sox having been eliminated from postseason competition on Sept. 8.
"You're playing extra guys that we brought up for different reasons," Ventura said. "You want to get a look at them, maybe let some pitchers work through some things instead of taking them out. It's just different.
"There's no part of it that's easy or that this has been fun at all. It's work, and you're trying to find ways to change it. That's part of going into the offseason and seeing what we have right now until the end of the year. From that point, you start making assessments, and figuring out which way we're going and how we're going to do it."
Ventura spoke Thursday like a manager who will be at the helm in 2014, with one year remaining on his three-year deal. It's a stance Ventura has strongly espoused ever since this current version of the White Sox began to struggle.
The reshaping or retooling process under general manager Rick Hahn is pretty much at an ideas stage right now. But Ventura will be consulted as the process moves forward and Ventura feels confident that he'll be running a competitive squad.
"We're pretty confident with what we have pitching-wise and what goes into the future with that," Ventura said. "It's always communication and looking at what we had this year and what you think was going to happen and what happened, and you're going to change it.
"You learn more going through stuff like this. I don't know if it makes you better. I don't wish this on anybody, but again, in the end of it, you're better for it."
When asked about looking back on this year with a little humor when the team is successful one or two years from now, a smiling Ventura hoped for sooner than later.
"I would like to think a year from now," Ventura said. "Or six months from now."
Phegley proves he belongs in big leagues
CHICAGO -- Josh Phegley will take one major realization away from his time with the White Sox this season, the knowledge that he can play at the Major League level.
"I believe I have everything I need to play at the Major League level," Phegley said. "Of course you want to get better and continue the process."
Catching stands as a major point of interest for White Sox fans, especially after A.J. Pierzynski's accomplished eight-year run came to an end last offseason. Tyler Flowers struggled with the bat in his 2013 starting role, with his season ending after shoulder surgery on Sept. 5.
Phegley earned his way to the Majors with a stellar performance at Triple-A Charlotte. He also has impressed Minor League catching instructor John Orton, who watched Phegley develop.
"When I compare him to the other guys I see in other organizations that are now in the big leagues that are playing every day, to me, he's as good if not better than some of those guys," Orton said. "He can do everything. He can hit, throw, and block. He's got good hands. He's quick, athletic. He's a decent runner. And again, he cares about the pitching staff, too. That goes a long way.
"They both care tremendously about the pitchers," said Orton, adding Flowers into the mix. "That's one of the things we look at. And they have the ability and just need games. The more games they are going to get at this level, the more they are going to learn and the better they are going to get. It just takes time."
That time concept isn't lost on Phegley, who has gradually adjusted to the nuances of big league responsibilities.
"Catching is kind of like hitting in that you do it so much that you can start to develop some different habits that you didn't have before," Phegley said. "Then you kind of realize you are doing something you didn't notice. It's kind of fine-tuning.
"Definitely with the pitching staff, they present new stuff, different pitches, like a heavy sinker from [Matt] Lindstrom. Maybe we didn't have that at the lower levels. You get here and now you have to make the adjustment. It's just making sure you don't develop any habits that are going to hinder your progress."
Speedster Johnson trying to accelerate path to Majors
CHICAGO -- Micah Johnson leads all of baseball with his 84 stolen bases between 2013 stops at Class A Kannapolis, Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham. He also has been thrown out 26 times, which Johnson considers part of the successful base-stealing process.
"A lot of it is confidence," said Johnson during a Thursday conference call involving Birmingham, which is playing Mobile in the Southern League championship series. "A lot of players will steal and get thrown out a few times and give up on it.
"That's the heart of it. There are a lot of fast guys. You just can't be scared when you are stealing bases."
Johnson, the White Sox No. 15 prospect, has a combined .312 average with 106 runs scored and 15 triples over 131 games. For the second baseman to continue that climb to the White Sox, his speed certainly will be a factor.
"I definitely think it will, being my main thing, my main attribute, getting on base," Johnson said. "Defensively, too. You use speed and quick bursts to get to balls behind second base and save a run or stop a ball deep in the hole to get a guy out or stop a run from scoring. You can steal two bases and score on a sacrifice fly or a ground ball to the shortstop. It will help me get to the big leagues, and it can help the team win."
"It's electric to see him play out there because he does so many things to help you win," Birmingham manager Julio Vinas said. "He hits a routine ground ball, and the infield panics because he's so much quicker."
Third to first
• Jose Quintana's 17 no-decisions among his 30 starts stand as a single-season American League record. Bert Blyleven holds the Major League record with 20 no-decisions in 1979 with the Pirates, per the Elias Sports Bureau.
• Wednesday's setback marked a fourth 1-0 loss for the White Sox this season. They also lost by that margin on April 12 at Cleveland, May 7 at the Mets and July 27 against the Royals. According to Elias, the last time the White Sox lost at least four games by a 1-0 margin in a season was 1972 (also four).
• Nate Jones is tied for first among AL relievers with a .143 batting average against. He ranks third in innings pitched at 73 1/3 and fourth in strikeouts at 84.