Catcher Tyler Flowers’ offensive struggles land him on bench
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Staff Reporter August 19, 2013 6:56PM
Atlanta Braves v Chicago White Sox
Updated: September 21, 2013 6:19AM
Opportunities come and go. White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers knows this all too well after letting his chance slip away.
Flowers was handed the starting job after the Sox allowed A.J. Pierzynski to walk in free agency last offseason, but he lost it to Josh Phegley on merit. His defense has been adequate, but his offense — a .192 average with nine home runs and 23 RBI in 269 plate appearances — hasn’t. He couldn’t have seen this coming when he homered in the Sox’ 1-0 victory against the Kansas City Royals on Opening Day or when he went deep again in a 5-2 victory in the next game.
But Flowers opened a window for Phegley, who was batting .314 with 15 homers and 41 RBI in 231 at-bats for Class AAA Charlotte, when his bat went silent. Phegley has started 29 of the Sox’ 42 games since being called up July 5.
‘‘It obviously wasn’t what I hoped for or expected,’’ Flowers said.
When Phegley started Sunday in Minnesota after catching a night game Saturday, Flowers — who has two singles in 24 at-bats since July 25 — got knocked down another notch. He has had a few highs, but he has had way too many lows.
‘‘I’ve been everywhere from high to low to in between this year,’’ Flowers, 27, said. ‘‘It might make it even tougher to know it’s your opportunity. I don’t feel like I put extra pressure on myself, but maybe. Who knows? It’s an opportunity of a lifetime, so to not be anxious, excited and nervous, you’re not human if you don’t feel all those emotions.’’
The only way Flowers knows how to pick himself up is to get back to work and find a consistent swing. His issue seems to be about timing issues with the lower half of his body.
‘‘The one thing I can do is practice, practice, practice,’’ he said.
Flowers wants to be sure he finds the right swing by the end of the season, so he isn’t wasting time on something that isn’t true when he works on it during the winter. While his short-term confidence has taken a hit, he thinks he can have a major-league career.
‘‘Without a doubt, definitely,’’ he said. ‘‘You see it with a lot of guys, whether they get a little older or something clicks or they switch teams. . . . They kind of figure something out, and they stick with it for four, five, six, seven, 10 years. I’m hoping and trying and working to find something that puts everything together for me to be consistent day in and day out.’’
Flowers’ defense and handling of pitchers is good enough to keep him working for a while.
‘‘There are a lot of No. 1 catchers who don’t hit,’’ Sox hitting coach Jeff Manto said. ‘‘Contrary to popular belief, the average major-league catcher doesn’t hit for much average or hit home runs or drive in a ton of runs. He just needs to battle now and take advantage of it when he gets an at-bat. It gets tougher [when you don’t play every day].’’
Playing every day guarantees nothing, either. It’s early for Phegley, who’s getting the opportunity Flowers had during the first half, but he hasn’t exactly distanced himself, either, hitting .219 after an initial big splash.
Flowers has tape-measure power. And he did hit .275 in the minors, so he’s not necessarily an all-or-nothing slugger. Another chance to prove that would be welcome.
‘‘I keep telling him, when it clicks, he has a chance to be something special,’’ Manto said.