Updated: July 2, 2013 7:15AM
Catcher Tyler Flowers is getting his shot, and he’s the first to admit it’s not going as he had hoped.
Flowers, who took over for fan favorite A.J. Pierzynski, is more popular with the pitchers who throw to him than he is with White Sox fans. And pitching coach Don Cooper, who aired Flowers out on a mound visit with struggling reliever Nate Jones for calling what he thought was the wrong pitch, remains in Flowers’ corner.
But asked to assess his first run of extended time as an every-day catcher, Flowers knows he has to be better. He’s hitting well below his weight, isn’t blocking tough but stoppable sliders in the dirt that are turning into wild pitches and has five passed balls in 38 starts.
‘‘I don’t feel great about it, and that’s not just from the offensive standpoint,’’ said Flowers, who had one of his better days at the plate with a double and an RBI single in a 9-3 loss Wednesday to the Cubs. ‘‘I can do a better job catching than I have. Not anything major, but the small things. There were a couple of blocks I feel like I should have had and a couple in big situations where it cost us a run. Those are the things that bother me more than the offensive side. But I’m addressing it. I’ll continue to work hard to avoid stupid mistakes like that.’’
With handling a staff,
receiving, blocking, throwing and everything else that goes with catching, Flowers has more on his plate than any player on the Sox. On top of it all, he’s dealing with a fan base that misses Pierzynski and a catcher, Josh Phegley, who is pushing for his job from Class AAA Charlotte, where he is batting .329 with 11 home runs, 30 RBI and a 1.040 OPS. That’s a lot on the shoulders of a guy hitting .208 with four homers and 13 RBI.
Flowers’ defensive play is expected to be good enough to let so-so hitting slide, but it isn’t where he wants it to be.
‘‘I’ve worked hard to be a good defensive catcher, but I haven’t been pleased overall with how it’s gone,’’ he said.
Sox pitchers like throwing to Flowers because he prepares before games and sticks to the game plan for attacking hitters.
‘‘Tyler has been outstanding,’’ right-hander Jake Peavy said. ‘‘The pitching staff has been fairly consistent, and Tyler has been a huge part of that. His preparation and the in-game decisions he makes make a huge difference. He knows what’s going on.
‘‘The hardest thing for a catcher is knowing the game plan and fitting it to the individual [pitcher]. A lot of people don’t understand that. You have a game plan, but you have to mix and match. Me and Dylan [Axelrod], we throw a lot of the same pitches but might go about things differently, depending on how he feels that day and what he can or can’t do. A good catcher recognizes the pitcher’s best pitches on those days and does all he can to get the plan around that and get the guy through his start.’’
When Cooper let Flowers have it, it was thought he was barking about a slider in the dirt that got past Flowers for a dropped third strike. That wasn’t the case.
‘‘He didn’t agree with the pitches we threw,’’ Flowers said.
A rare occurrence, indeed. But Flowers knows he has to turn his miscues and outs into less frequent events to be the Sox’ long-term answer behind the plate.