Phegley Battles Through Trying Season

Phegley Battles Through Trying Season

Saturday Sept. 4, 2010
Posted: 12:05 p.m.
By Kevin T. Czerwinski

Josh Phegley had been nicked and dinged with foul balls before. Some hurt more than others but whether the ball smashes into your thumb and splits it or just glances off your chest protector, getting hit is the part of a catchers job that is unavoidable.

So when Phegley, 22, took a ding off his thigh back in April, he didnt think much of it. A simple foul ball that grazed off his glove and hit him in the thigh was commonplace. This time, however, the bruise that impact made began to grow, reaching nearly 12 inches. It was at that point that Phegley, the player whom the White Sox chose with the 38th pick in the 2009 draft, realized there was a problem.

I just started to notice some red dots, Phegley said. It was almost like a bruise but the dots were passive and I was thinking what are these? And then I ended up getting the bruise on my leg and it was 10-12 inches wide. It didnt go away and that was my first indication that something was wrong.

The Chicago medical staff ran some blood work on Phegley and he continued to play for Winston-Salem of the Carolina League. When it was determined that he was suffering from a condition known as idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura ITP, he was immediately placed on the disabled list and began to medication to help alleviate the problem.

ITP is a bleeding condition in which the blood doesnt clot as it should. Its caused by a low number of platelets in the blood. The little dots that Phegley saw on his skin are known as petechiae and often look like a rash.

I never had a problem before that and I felt totally normal, said Phegley, who is finishing out this season with Double-A Birmingham. I never had anything like this in my life. It just came on. My blood work checked out fine in spring training. Theres no known cause and Ive spent this year trying to get back on the field because of it.

After the first time you get it, theres more of a chance of getting it again than any other person. A high percentage of people never get it again. But the entire time I had it, I never felt any different. I felt totally normal.

Yet, there could have been serious consequences had Phegley continued playing after he was diagnosed. Had he suffered an injury that resulted in bleeding, the results could have been devastating. So, the White Sox put him on the disabled list after he played on April 15 and he didnt return to action until he began his rehab assignment with Bristol on June 22.

Phegley played at Bristol and then again with Winston-Salem for two weeks before going back on the disabled list for three weeks in July. He finally returned to action on July 30 and spent a little over two weeks in the Carolina League before moving up to the Double-A Southern League.

The last game I played in April before I had my blood ran, I had a collision at the plate with the Nationals Boomer Whiting, Phegley said. Hes a small guy, about 150 pounds. If it was a bigger guy, I could have gotten a concussion, which is basically a bruise in your head, and it wouldnt have stopped bleeding.

When my platelets are low, I start to get those spots because my capillaries are thin. I can start bleeding out so a big gash is more of a risk. If Im playing the outfield, it wouldnt bee as much of an issue. The fact that any ball can be fouled off me makes it a risk.

Despite understanding the risks and issuing a warning to himself, Phegley said he never considered moving out from behind the plate. He has controlled his condition with medication and gets his blood checked regularly to make sure his condition was temporary and not chronic. He will continue to get his blood checked weekly until long-term stability is evident.

If everything checks out fine when I get my blood done I dont even think about it, he said. It was just kind of a fluke disorder that came out of nowhere. And I love catching so changing positions hasnt even crossed my mind.

Phegley is hitting a combined .274 through 45 games at the three levels this season. Hes got four homers, driven in 21 runs and was named as one of the White Sox who will be playing in the Arizona Fall League this season.

Hes been using what time he has spent on the field this season wisely. Phegley is working with the more experienced players at the Double-A level and getting used to a game that moves much quicker than it does in the Carolina League. Hes worked with catcher Cole Armstrong and pitching coach JR Perdew on slowing the game down and will take what hes learned into the AFL season.

I missed a lot of this year so Ill be going to the Instructional League for a while, too, Phegley said. The Fall League is basically going to be my season. Im pretty excited to get going.

Kevin Czerwinski can be reached at ktczerwinski@gmail.com.

Zach LaVine puts on rare scoring display in Bulls' win over Atlanta Hawks

USA Today

Zach LaVine puts on rare scoring display in Bulls' win over Atlanta Hawks

On some nights, basketball can be pretty simple. For the Bulls’ offense — a unit in desperate need of a breakout — tonight was one of those nights.

“I told him, whenever you get it, just shoot it. No matter where you at,” Coby White said of Zach LaVine (who else?) after the Bulls routed the Hawks 136-102. “It just seems like when he gets in a rhythm, he's impossible to stop.”

At present, that sentiment resonates strongly. LaVine scorched the Hawks Wednesday night to the tune of 35 points on 12-for-15 shooting, 7-for-7 from 3-point range. And he did it all in just 25 minutes, sitting the entire fourth quarter of a resounding victory that the Bulls, mercifully, polished off early.

“You know, I get it going. And I want it to stay that way,” LaVine said. “It finally got all put together… It feels good. You wanna have wins like that. It does good for the team and obviously for the body [resting the entire fourth quarter].”

Trouncing the Hawks simultaneously snaps a three-game losing streak for the team, and a shooting funk for LaVine. He shot only 33.3% from the field on 19 attempts per game in the three games that comprised that scheid — hard-fought losses to the Warriors, Heat and Raptors. The Bulls’ total margin of defeat from those three contests was eight points.

“That's what we've been trying to put together,” LaVine said of the Hawks game. “Even though we've had our losses, we’ve been competing every game, we've had stretches where we look really good, where we look like the better team. But we're coming out with the losses.”

Not so tonight. But of course, it’s facetious to call the type of display LaVine put on ‘simple’. Every NBA game, no matter what colors the competing teams sport, features the best basketball players in the world. There are no easy nights at the office in this profession.

Which makes just how easy he can make it look all the more astounding. And all the more worth appreciating.

“Zach's efficiency obviously is just unbelievable,” Jim Boylen said. “He wants to be great, and he's working, and his habits are good. So I'm happy for him.”

LaVine joins a list of only 13 players in NBA history to score 35 points in 25 minutes of play with this performance, including Ben Gordon and *drum roll* Michael Jordan. He is also now the 20th player in league history to shoot 100% on 3-pointers on seven or more attempts in a game. When he’s on, it’s a spectacle. Appointment television.

But, for LaVine, the focus remains on the team. And the future.

“I don't think every game's gonna be like this, obviously,” he said. “But we need to have more of them.”

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Thad Young delivers with trademark consistency in rout of Atlanta Hawks

USA Today

Thad Young delivers with trademark consistency in rout of Atlanta Hawks

Even after playing a season- and game-high 32 minutes, 47 seconds Wednesday night, Thad Young is averaging 21:38 this season. 

That’s the second-lowest average of Young’s consistently solid 13-season career. Only in Young’s rookie season with the 76ers way back in 2007-08 did he play less, at 21 minutes per game.

When Young signed a three-year, $43 million deal in free agency, $32 million of which is guaranteed, he knew he’d come off the bench behind Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. But he couldn’t have expected to play so little, particularly after averaging 30-32 minutes while starting 236 games for the Pacers over the last three seasons. 

“Things happen. You have to play through it and be a pro with the time you get. When I’m out there, it shows on the court,” Young said. “It’s definitely frustrating when you don’t get as many minutes as you’ve been getting. But you can’t let it bother you. You have to keep trying to stay in rhythm and come to the gym every day and keep working.

“I’ll always be there for my teammates, no matter if I don’t like the situation or it’s not going my way. You have to continue to play and let your teammates know you’re there for them. I’m not one of those guys who likes to cause a lot of commotion. I don’t want to be a distraction for the team. I want to play whatever minutes I get and when I’m out there, just be productive.”

That Young was in the Bulls’ 136-102 cakewalk over the Hawks. Young stuffed the box score with 15 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals.

“When he checked in, I thought the separation happened in the game,” coach Jim Boylen said. 

This wasn’t simply a matter of Young fattening his statistics against a listless Hawks team. He played close to 15 minutes in the first half before the game got out of hand, on pace to log 30 minutes for just the second time this season. 

That he ended up getting some run in the second-half blowout helped his staggering plus-33. But it also allowed him to contribute those plays that don’t always show up in the box score — finding Lauri Markkanen with a crosscourt pass for a 3-pointer, deflecting passes. 

“It’s always good when you get more opportunity. The longer I play, the more I get a chance to show what I can do. And not just scoring but filling up the stat sheet where I have assists, get rebounds, get steals, high intensity on the defensive end to get us extra possessions,” Young said. “Most importantly, it’s always good to get a win.”

Young said he’d be open to playing small forward if Boylen asks, a pregame topic that Boylen fielded a question on with Otto Porter Jr. out at least another month and Chandler Hutchison still not back. That didn’t happen against the Hawks. 

But extra playing time did. And Young delivered with the consistency that has defined his career.

“That’s how I built my career and how I’ve made the money I’ve made and how I’ve made the name I’ve made in this league and gained respect. I come with my hard hat every night. I’m ready to play and do whatever the team needs,” Young said. “If I’m not scoring, I’m rebounding. If I’m not rebounding or scoring, then I’m getting steals and creating havoc on the defensive end. I take pride in being there for my guys and being a warrior.”

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