White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers adjusting to changing rotation
BY TONI GINNETTI For Sun-Times Media May 11, 2014 9:34PM
Chicago White Sox's Tyler Flowers reacts to striking out against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the third inning of a baseball game on Sunday, May 11, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles) ORG XMIT: CXS108
Updated: May 11, 2014 9:42PM
White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers deals with curveballs every day — from the mound and from baseball in general.
Dealing with the curves of baseball is always the greater challenge, as it has been with a Sox starting rotation that has been beset by
‘‘The biggest challenge is the first or second time catching a guy,’’ Flowers said. ‘‘Honestly, the challenge catching them the first time is just catching the ball — recognizing the action on their pitches, recognizing their tendencies on when they miss pitches, helping them get back on track or just being prepared to block pitches. That’s something that becomes a level of comfort over time.’’
The Sox expected their starting pitching to be a strength this season, anchored by left-handers Chris Sale, John Danks and Jose Quintana. But Sale has been out since mid-April with a flexor strain in his left arm, and Danks and Quintana have struggled at times.
The Sox have used six other pitchers in the rotation, including Hector Noesi, who took the loss in a 5-1 defeat Sunday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Flowers has had to learn the tendencies of each.
‘‘After catching Sale for all these years, I can pretty much tell you where it’s going to be if it’s going to be in the dirt,’’ he said. ‘‘That helps with the anticipation, being able to focus on that one thing in particular. That’s the challenge early on [with new pitchers]. You just try to learn as quickly as you can on the fly within the game. It’s not ideal, but we felt these guys could help us, and they definitely can. I’m just the last piece to figure it all out.’’
Bench coach Mark Parent, a former catcher, understands the dynamics.
‘‘That’s a lot of work,’’ he said of learning the changing rotation. ‘‘Usually at this level, in my experience, you had a certain number of guys that you were used to catching. You knew what they did. You knew what to expect. If you needed a strike or needed a punchout, you knew where to go.
‘‘[Flowers] is certainly trying to find it. And then going to bat and doing all that stuff. Hell, he’s a .300 hitter. He’s just got a lot of things going. But Tyler is a very smart kid, and he’s handled it really well.’’
Flowers has become an offensive threat, with his .324 average ranking second on the team. His bat has come around with the aid of a simplified routine worked out in spring training with hitting coach Todd Steverson. It couldn’t have come at a better time, given the demands of catching the changing rotation.
‘‘I don’t feel I need to spend a whole lot of time on hitting,’’ Flowers said. ‘‘We developed a routine for me in spring training that we’ve stuck with. It’s not super time-consuming. It’s just something to kind of get me doing the same thing day in and day out in hopes of being consistent day in and day out.
‘‘I promised myself I’m going to stick to that routine because I haven’t really done that in the past. I think it helps . . . to do the same thing, so you don’t really think about it. It’s kind of a way to hit the reset button for that day and not think about what happened yesterday or last week.’’