2/23/2014 5:30 P.M. ET
Leesman works in relief, but prefers chance to start
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Charlie Leesman will work this Spring Training as a reliever, according to White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper. It's a role that gives Leesman the best chance to break camp with the team, as he battles with Frank De Los Santos, David Purcey and possibly Eric Surkamp to take the second left-handed-reliever spot behind Scott Downs from Donnie Veal.
If Leesman had the decision-making power, he would continue to be a starting pitcher for the White Sox. He made 125 of his 127 career Minor League appearances as a starter. But having his relief indoctrination through seven games at the big league level last season gives Leesman a boost of confidence that he can compete in either role.
"That was unexpected to go up there and it was, 'Here you go, you are in the big leagues. You are in a position you really haven't done much of,'" Leesman said. "It's nice to get those nerves out of the way up there and feel comfortable with whatever they want me to do.
"I feel like I'm in a good position. I could go either way: bullpen or starter."
Leesman posted a 1.74 ERA in the Arizona Fall League, appearing in six games as a reliever and one as a starter for the Glendale Desert Dogs. Part of sending Leesman to Arizona was to get him more innings after he missed the start of 2013 while rehabbing from left knee surgery at the end of '12.
His 7.04 ERA and 32 baserunners allowed over 15 1/3 innings for the White Sox were far from overwhelming. Leesman did strand all four of his inherited baserunners and limit opponents to 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and two outs.
"Being left-handed and being able to do that too is a definite advantage," Leesman said. "I would love to keep starting. Ultimately, that's what I want to do. But if it's in the bullpen, so be it you know. For right now, when they call on me, I'll just try to get guys out."
Cooper dismisses practice of labeling starters Nos. 1-3
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Don Cooper is not a fan of labeling starters in the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 format.
So while Jose Quintana's statistics from 2012 and '13 have him looking like a second starter, there's nothing locking in the left-hander behind staff ace Chris Sale.
"We don't put numbers on people. I've said this for years, but obviously nobody is really listening," Cooper said. "We are putting our guys in a position that best helps our club.
"What is our best formation? No. 1 doesn't face No. 1 all the time. No. 2 doesn't face No. 2. After a week, it's all out with days off. Our No. 1 guy is the guy that's out there that day. That's our No. 1 guy, no matter whose name it is."
Cooper believes that the only time numbers really mean something is when it comes to who pitches Games 1, 2 and 3 of a playoff series. The rotation White Sox manager Robin Ventura and Cooper have set, which the pitching coach didn't make public, certainly could change over the next few weeks.
Phegley remains confident in catcher's competition
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The news that Tyler Flowers has the early edge for the starting catcher's job didn't seem to bother Josh Phegley.
"I'm just here to show them what I can do," said Phegley, who is joined by Adrian Nieto and Hector Gimenez in the White Sox catcher's competition. "They've seen me enough, but there is some competition for the job. That's what we all want."
Phegley arrived in the Majors last season after hitting .316 with 15 homers and 41 RBIs for Triple-A Charlotte. Phegley raised his International League average from .241 over 79 at-bats in 2011 to .266 during his first full season with the Knights in '12. His slugging percentage also jumped from .367 to .373 to .597 over those three years.
His hope is to see a similar big league jump in 2014 after hitting .206 with a .299 slugging percentage and .223 on-base percentage during this first Major League experience. The biggest gain Phegley took from last year's stint was the feeling he belongs as a big leaguer.
"I started off really well when they called me up. Then struggling, pressing, I tried to do too much," Phegley said. "With kind of the attitude surrounding the club last year and how negative it was, everyone was out there trying to do way more than they were capable of instead of just playing the game.
"So what I got out of last year was that I'm a big leaguer. I can play up there and just need to trust myself."
Belisario remains absent from camp with visa issue
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The White Sox remain on Ronald Belisario watch, as the right-handed reliever continues to have visa issues preventing him from leaving Venezuela. The extended absence of the free-agent pitcher, who agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal with the White Sox, is getting closer to being an issue, per manager Robin Ventura.
"These guys have all been out here doing stuff and it's getting close to it," Ventura said. "I don't know if I can speed up the visa issue, so you have to wait and see. We've got people working on it.
"Hopefully he's ready. and the way you use him and has enough strength that you wouldn't notice it. But every day he's not here, it's a day further."
Third to first
• There's still no timetable for a return to the mound for Nate Jones, although Ventura said the closer candidate is getting closer.
"You don't want to rush him," Ventura said. "Arm-wise he looks pretty good anyway. If it was an arm issue, it'd probably be a little slower, but we're just making sure everything feels good before he gets out there and lets it go."
Jones has been sidelined since the start of camp with a moderate left glute strain.
• Avisail Garcia was moving around normally during Sunday's workout after having an ingrown toenail worked on Friday.
• The novelty of having the Danks brothers, John and Jordan, in the same White Sox camp has worn off a bit this Spring Training.
"Yeah, we've quit doing the brother stories every day," John said. "I guess people are used to seeing us in here now."
• Former White Sox outfielder Darin Erstad, who played with the team in 2007, is in town for a college baseball tournament with his Nebraska squad. Erstad serves as the head coach for the Cornhuskers, his alma mater.