MESA, Ariz. (AP) A change in his catching stance has Josh Phegley feeling fine and ready to resume his role as part of the Oakland Athletics’ platoon at the position.
Phegley, after taking some cuts in the batting cage early at spring training Thursday, leaned back and slightly to the side to demonstrate his previous staggered stance. It mysteriously caused fluid buildup in his left knee and made it difficult to catch two days in a row last season, and the A’s didn’t often have Phegley’s bat to counter left-handed starters.
”You could see it in there, just a little bit of swelling. But no pain really, ever,” Phegley said. ”The staggered part was kind of the reason my hip was drifting back and getting locked in. If anyone stood like this all day every day, they’d get a little asymmetrical.”
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The pressure from the fluid kept Phegley’s knee joint from fully flexing, and he couldn’t squat all the way down. He’d catch one day and have swelling the next. Phegley developed a cyst from what he believes was the fluid. He needed surgery in early July to remove the cyst.
Then came a bout with strep throat during his rehabilitation, which Phegley believes was a result of his knee being infected from the fluid. He played in only one game after June.
”It was just kind of like, icing on the cake,” Phegley said.
”My staggered catching stance, everything caused me to get really off balance, so my right leg was taking more pressure than my left,” he said. ”Catching wasn’t a problem, but it was getting up the next day and catching another game if I needed to.”
Phegley had adjusted his stance, opening his left side up more, to help him catch Oakland’s sinker-ball pitchers. After the season, he went to a more squared stance and said he believes it will help him stay on the field and stay healthy.
Phegley arrived at spring training feeling 100 percent ready to do everything at his position, but the club has been a bit cautious so far. With six catchers in camp, the workload gets spread out.
He didn’t start hitting until December, so Phegley is trying to get in as much cage work as he can. Manager Bob Melvin said Phegley looks like he’s lost around 15 pounds.
”You look at our depth chart as far as the catching goes and he’s that right-handed guy that we need, so the goal is to get him through the season healthy,” Melvin said. ”It affected us when we lost him.”
Game action got underway for the A’s Thursday with brief intrasquad games, and Phegley caught two innings. The A’s open the spring training schedule Saturday against the Chicago Cubs.
”The last hurdle is playing in games and seeing how I recover after that,” Phegley said.
Notes: RHP Jesse Hahn will start against the Cubs as he makes his bid to be the A’s No. 5 starter in the rotation. The rest of the projected rotation will pitch as scheduled: Kendall Graveman on Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels, Sonny Gray and Sean Manaea on Monday against the Giants and Jharel Cotton on Tuesday against Cleveland. Andrew Triggs, also in competition for a job, is also scheduled for Tuesday. … Top prospect Franklin Barreto, who spent 2016 in the minors, will be used at second base and shortstop in spring training, and not the outfield. ”The guy plays shortstop really well and you don’t want to take him off that position unless you have to,” Melvin said.