ST. PETERSBURG -- Erik Johnson was placed on the disabled list with a right groin strain after leaving his start from Triple-A Charlotte on July 3. The 23-year-old Johnson, rated as the No. 3 White Sox prospect by MLB.com, is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA and 18 strikeouts over 16 innings and three starts since being promoted from Double-A Birmingham to Charlotte.
"It's real, but I don't think it's serious. You have to be careful," said White Sox assistant general manager Buddy Bell of Johnson's injury. "We would do the same with anybody, but especially with him. We have to make sure he's good. He may not pitch until after the All-Star break."
Pitching in his second full Minor League season, Johnson could benefit from working the full 2013 campaign for the Knights. Bell also believes that the talented right-hander could compete for the White Sox at the big league level.
"He could pitch up here, and I think he can win," Bell said. "How consistent he can be, your guess is as good as mine. If you have fastball command, you have a chance, and he has that. He'll waver at times.
"The first couple of starts at Charlotte, he had a real hard time getting a feel for his breaking ball. He was able to get to his fastball and by the time the game was over, [Josh] Phegley got him into a good routine with his fastball and his breaking ball, which he'll have to do when he gets up here. If he gets up here and has a couple [rough] innings early, in the big leagues you can't make that mistake. But he continues to get better."
Phegley forces way into big leagues with performance
ST. PETERSBURG -- The promotion of Josh Phegley from Triple-A Charlotte into the White Sox starting lineup Friday does not stand as a direct indictment of Tyler Flowers' play behind the plate over the first three months of the 2013 regular season.
It's more about the 25-year-old Phegley, ranked as the club's No. 15 prospect by MLB.com, forcing the action with his performance for the Knights and earning his first big league opportunity.
"Yeah, I think that's fair," White Sox assistant general manager Buddy Bell said. "Two young catchers potentially can be pretty good. It will be interesting to see how it works out."
"He's here to play," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Phegley. "He's earned the right to come up, and that's part of playing well in Triple-A."
Phegley received the good news sometime around 5 p.m. ET on Thursday upon wading through a torrential downpour and reaching the visitors' clubhouse for a game against Gwinnett. Many from the White Sox fan base were pleased with the movement involving Phegley, while others wondered why he wasn't called up earlier.
His Charlotte average stands at a robust .316 with 15 homers, 18 doubles and 41 RBIs. Phegley also is highly confident in his defense and ability to call games, hitting the ground running Friday at Tropicana Field and catching former teammate Dylan Axelrod.
"This has hit me quick. You know, just on the bus ride to Atlanta and then all of the sudden show up at the clubhouse and get called up," Phegley said. "Having to fly over here and trying to get everything situated. It's exciting. I don't think the brunt of it will really hit me until I get in the box or behind the plate. I'm just trying to stay calm. It's the same game, so I'll go out and play hard."
"He puts the ball in play, has good at-bats," said Ventura of Phegley's top attributes. "He was much improved [during Spring Training] from the year before, catching-wise. That's another aspect he's improved on and earned him this promotion."
That promotion means Flowers' starting experience has come to a temporary close, with Flowers moving into a reserve role after Hector Gimenez was designated for assignment to make room for Phegley. Don't look for Flowers to play much at first base or designated hitter to pick up extra at-bats, although Flowers said that he's willing to do whatever needed to get him on the field.
The White Sox could look to trade Flowers, but as of Friday, he was saying all the right things concerning his new work with Phegley.
"I'm happy for him. It makes me think about the first time I came up. I know he's probably really excited," said Flowers, who earned praise from Bell for his game-calling but still is hitting .208 with eight homers and 22 RBIs. "I'm going to try and help him as much as I can, just like Hector and I tried to work together. I'm going to do the same with him. We'll see what happens."
"When I came in to my first big league camp, he was there and helped me along every Spring Training," said Phegley of Flowers. "He has already come up to me and said, 'Anything you need, I'll help you out.' I really appreciate that."
Peavy takes another step toward return to action
ST. PETERSBURG -- Jake Peavy's 53-pitch bullpen session prior to Friday's game instilled a level of excitement in the veteran right-hander as well as a slight feeling of frustration. So, it was fairly representative of Peavy's demeanor in every start he makes.
Peavy moved closer to a return from a fractured rib in his left side that placed him on the disabled list retroactive to June 5. He threw all of his pitches, and Peavy's arm strength felt pretty good for the first 10 or 15 pitches. But with Peavy being unable to do any sort of exercise for a month because of the injury, the rebound process is somewhat akin to the gradual work put in during Spring Training.
Next up for Peavy is a simulated game in Detroit on Tuesday, when White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said Peavy will get up and down three or four times for at least 45 pitches. If that session goes well and Peavy feels strong the next day, there's a chance Peavy could start the final game of the season's first half in Philadelphia.
Manager Robin Ventura sounds more inclined to have Peavy make a Minor League rehab start or two. With Peavy serving as the team's most significant trade piece, the White Sox probably won't send him to a Major League mound until he's ready to go at close to full strength.
"It would be tough to stick him back out there, being off this long," Ventura said. "You'd like to see him get the adrenaline going. It's a different game than going out and throwing a bullpen and expecting him to go out in a game. I would doubt very highly he would go out there without a rehab start."
"You know me, and I'd probably be all for that if it's a possibility," said Peavy of skipping the Minor League rehab. "I could certainly see that being a possibility. I'm not sure from their end. I'd love nothing more than that being a possibility."
Friday's frustration and disappointment for Peavy came from missing location on a few offerings. Even in a bullpen setting, after a long period of inactivity, Peavy wants to make every pitch.
"He's picky because he knows what he's capable of," Cooper said. "I don't go in and expect him to hit every spot. I've done this for how many years now, and I've had lots and lots of guys and I haven't had one guy who hit every spot.
"Nobody is perfect. But he wants to be as close to perfect as he can get. It irritates him when he does it, no matter how many days he's had off or not. He expects it to be good and that's not a bad thing."
Third to first
• Infielder Steve Tolleson was named to the International League All-Star Team to replace Phegley. Tolleson, 29, is hitting .270 with five homers and 39 RBIs for the Knights.
• The White Sox have used the disabled list 10 times this season, compared to just 13 times in 2012. They currently have five players on the DL in Jesse Crain, Paul Konerko, Dewayne Wise, Gavin Floyd and Peavy.
• Adam Dunn's ninth-inning homer on Thursday marked the White Sox third consecutive walk-off victory on the Fourth of July. Kevin Youkilis hit a game-ending single to beat Texas last year, and Kansas City reliever Aaron Crow balked in the winning run the year before.
• With a .263 average with RISP and two outs, the White Sox rank fourth in the Majors in that particular category.