Jordan Danks’ return to the big leagues has produced one up and one down. Considering he hit .098 before his demotion to Triple-A in May, 1-for-2 doesn't sound so bad.
In the 10th inning of Saturday night's White Sox winner over the Mariners, he upgraded a fielder’s choice with a stolen base. His subsequent presence between second on third on Gordon Beckham’s routine grounder to short might’ve caused Seattle’s Chris Taylor to bungle the play, which extended the inning long enough for Conor Gillaspie to cash in Danks with a game-winning single to right.
He didn't have an opportunity to save his own face in the ninth inning of Sunday's loss, striking out on three pitches with the bases loaded to end the game. Still, I imagine he'll take wearing it in Chicago over success in Charlotte, because he's had a record-setting amount of the latter, and yet he still needed Adam Eaton to crash into a fence to open up a spot.
"Those are the records you don't really want," Danks said. "You've been playing in the minor leagues too long. But while you are down there you might as well set some milestones and stuff.
"My wife even said to me the other day, 'I know you want to be in the big leagues, but I hope you are proud of yourself. It really is a cool honor to be a record holder on any team.' I am proud. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed my time, but I'm glad to be back."
Danks turned 28 last Thursday, and he would've received longer looks on a lot of other rosters, so he had all the reason in the world to let impatience run amok. Credit him (and his wife) for keeping his considerable chin up. In a just world, Danks isn't exposed to a return to Charlotte in the week between Eaton's earliest return and roster expanding on Sept. 1, but Danks knows the 25-man roster isn't fair. The good news: It only took him two games to reach half the hit total of his first stint.
Josh Phegley looked like he might be able to endure an unfavorable roster situation, too. A month ago, regression pounded Tyler Flowers into the ground, yet Adrian Nieto still couldn't be trusted to play two days in a row. One more month of it, and maybe a door opens for Phegley to turn the starting (or incumbent) catching job into a three-way battle royal. He did his damndest down in Charlotte to force the issue, putting together what turned out to be a 1.004-OPS July.
But Flowers switched to glasses/used the All-Star break to his advantage, and he keeps finding ways to stoke his hot streak. He went 1-for-2 with a homer and two HBPs on Sunday to raise his second-half line to .390/.454/.711. Now he looks like the very definition of league average.
- Flowers: 250/.308/.380
- AL Catchers: .248/.308/.385
I still think Flowers' ideal role is "liberally deployed backup," but he's trying to tip the scales back to starting:
When Flowers hears rumors about potential White Sox interest in other backstops, for the present or the future, he doesn't flinch.
"Honestly, I welcome the challenge with some of the guys that the rumors have been about," Flowers told MLB.com Wednesday. "I'll take my chances against those guys.
"We start trading for Yadier Molina, I might have to reassess," added Flowers with a smile. "But other than that, I'm confident in myself and the abilities I have and my relationship with the starters and the pitchers we have here and the staff and all."
If he carries this improved stretch through August, he could very well get the bulk of September catching duties to make a closing argument. Either one is bad news for Phegley, who has always liked his game more than White Sox coaches do.
Phegley had reason to feel good about himself after going 9-for-12 with three homers, three doubles and 13 RBIs over a recent three-game stretch.
"My main goal for this year was just to bounce back and show them I can repeat the kind of year I had in Triple-A," Phegley said. "Maybe I was putting too much pressure on myself and that's not the kind of player I can be. I think I've gotten back to my approach and trusting my abilities. I think I've showed that I can be a Major League backstop. I earned a callup last year and I think I'm putting together the same quality year I did last year. Just continue to play hard and wait patiently for that call."
But Mark Parent continued the tradition of not sharing his enthusiasm, with the kind of criticism that you don't hear for other White Sox catchers -- even somebody with a ton on his to-do list like Nieto.
"We have all the confidence in the world that he's going to be a Major League player. If it's not right now, it will take some time. [...] And it may not be with us. Maybe somebody else. You never know. He's a good piece. He's something other teams like." [...]
"For me last year, he was there to hit. You need the whole package. You need to be able to run the game and take charge, take command. The game was just a little bit fast for him in that regard, what was expected of him. So, he was aware of that being sent down this year. Hopefully he's working at it and he can show what he can do with next opportunity."
It'd be a shock if Phegley wasn't afforded the opportunity of a September call-up, but it doesn't sound like Parent -- and maybe the entire Sox staff as an extension -- is terribly eager to test first impressions.
The waiting game at second base has turned into a full-blown bottleneck. After posting the worst month by a White Sox regular in 46 years, Beckham refuses to regress:
- July: .138/.158/.213
- August: .161/.212/.194
Add it all up, and he's 18-for-125 over 33 starts. Meanwhile, down at Charlotte:
- Carlos Sanchez: .302/.358/.419
- Marcus Semien: .231/.342/.440
- Micah Johnson: .289/.331/.390
This current arrangement really doesn't benefit anybody anymore.