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updated: 9/6/2013 12:02 AM

Catching big issue for White Sox

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  • White Sox catcher Josh Phegley has struggled after starting his major-league career on a hot streak.

    White Sox catcher Josh Phegley has struggled after starting his major-league career on a hot streak.
    Associated Press

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If White Sox general manager Rick Hahn decides to look outside the organization for help at catcher this off-season, he's likely going to have to make a trade.

It's a razor thin free-agent market at the position, and Atlanta's Brian McCann is the only proven catcher that might be available.

Assuming McCann would even have an interest in signing with the Sox, the 29-year-old catcher's price tag already is coming in at $75 million over five years, and there is going to be a bidding war if the Braves don't lock up McCann before the season ends.

A.J. Pierzynski is going to be a free agent again this winter, but there is no way he'd return to the White Sox after being shown the door following the 2012 season.

So -- for now -- that leaves Josh Phegley as the Sox' No. 1 catcher heading into next year.

On Thursday, Tyler Flowers had shoulder surgery at Rush University Medical Center and is going to need 2-3 months of recovery time.

Flowers, who opened the season as the White Sox' top catcher in place of Pierzynski, lost his starting job to Phegley in early July. He finishes the season with a .195/.247/.355 hitting line to go with 10 home runs and 24 RBI.

Phegley looked like the long-term answer when he came up from Class AAA Charlotte on July 5 and had 3 home runs and 8 RBI in his first five games.

But the 25-year-old catcher has struggled badly since the auspicious debut and, like Flowers, he has a subpar .211/.219/.322 slash line with 4 home runs and 19 RBI.

Equally concerning, the right-handed-hitting Phegley has been completely overmatched against right-handed pitching, batting .179 (21-for-117).

Phegley didn't play against the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night, when the White Sox fell 3-1 to run their losing streak to seven games.

Bryan Anderson, who spent some time with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2010 and '12, made his first start with the White Sox since having his contract purchased from Charlotte on Sunday. Anderson's not the answer moving forward.

The White Sox have to decide if Phegley -- or possibly Flowers -- can learn from all of the adversity they faced this season and be better in the future.

Or, maybe Hahn sets his sights a little lower and brings in a free agent such as Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Brayan Pena, John Buck or Dioner Navarro to help Phegley make the difficult transition to starting major-league catcher.

If Phegley has one thing it's confidence. He knows what's going on when he's at the plate and still is trying to fix the problem.

"I'm getting a lot of breaking balls," Phegley said. "They know I'm pressing and I'm not letting the ball get to me. Pitchers are just throwing off-speed and letting me get out in front.

"And, of course, if you get off your legs you don't get enough power or have the ability to drive the ball. I think it's just a matter of adjusting."

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