Sox hoping catcher Tyler Flowers will blossom this season
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN email@example.com March 13, 2012 9:00PM
Chicago White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers, left, talks to starting pitcher Jake Peavy (44) during a spring training baseball game against the Oakland Athletics Monday, March 12, 2012, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
Updated: April 15, 2012 8:13AM
GLENDALE, Ariz. — If you’re Tyler Flowers, it’s a good thing to have a margin for error.
Except for the three-run home run he launched Saturday, the only notable thing the White Sox’ backup catcher has done at the plate this spring is strike out. He has fanned eight times in 14 at-bats but seems to be in no danger of losing his job.
‘‘I don’t feel like I’m in that spot,’’ Flowers said Tuesday. ‘‘I’m a little more comfortable [with job security] than I have been in the past, so it kind of gives me a small luxury to work on a few things. I only have so much time, though, so I’d better figure it out pretty soon.’’
That would make things easier on manager Robin Ventura, who has said he wants to give starting catcher A.J. Pierzynski, 35, more days off than Pierzynski is accustomed to. Pierzynski, a better offen-
sive player than Flowers, is a left-handed hitter and has the versatility to bat second in the order or in RBI spots lower down.
Pierzynski, who is in great physical shape for his age and for the number of innings he has logged behind the plate, isn’t asking for a reduction in playing time and isn’t about to back down from a competition, especially with Flowers.
‘‘Our relationship? We’re not best friends, but we talk to each other,’’ Flowers said. ‘‘It’s fine. It works.’’
Aside from playing the popular video game ‘‘Call of Duty’’ against each other online during the offseason and playing the same position, the catchers don’t share much in common.
Flowers has a better rapport with right-hander Jake Peavy, whom he got to know while catching Peavy’s minor-league rehab stints last season. Flowers caught Peavy on Monday and would like nothing more than to be Peavy’s personal catcher.
While Ventura said Tuesday he’s not ready to make Flowers Peavy’s personal catcher, Flowers said he is hearing he’ll get a lot of starts when Peavy pitches.
‘‘Yeah, I’m hoping,’’ Flowers said. ‘‘Indications are in that direction.’’
Peavy, who clashed with Pierzynski on the field and in the
tunnel leading to the clubhouse during a start June 23 against the Cubs at U.S. Cellular Field, said the subject of working with Flowers hasn’t been discussed with him. He said he’s good with either catcher.
‘‘I think the world of both guys we have,’’ Peavy said Tuesday. ‘‘Both guys get after it. I have no idea how Robin makes the lineups up. However he makes it out, I’m going to go after it.’’
After their dust-up, Pierzynski called Peavy a great competitor and said he loved him. Peavy said there was no ill will.
‘‘It’s part of playing the game and being a part of a team,’’ Peavy said.
Pitchers have catchers they
prefer, and it works both ways. Flowers likes catching Peavy for more reasons than friendship.
‘‘From my perspective, it’s like hitting: You see the ball better from certain pitchers,’’ Flowers said. ‘‘He’s one of those guys [where] I recognize the pitches out of his hand. I can kind of tell if it’s going to be in the dirt and block it or if it’s going to be a strike or borderline. That gives me comfort.
‘‘On the other end, he likes what I do behind the plate receiving and blocking and making him comfortable. . . . Our relationship is pretty good, too, and I’m getting a better understanding of how he likes to pitch, so we’re not shaking off pitches all the time. It’s all a work in progress, but that helps the relationship.’’
The coaching staff has worked with Flowers and Pierzynski on blocking drills and on throwing, particularly on footwork mechanics to help them get throws off faster. In concert with that, Sox pitchers are working on slide steps, on being quicker to the plate and on altering pickoff moves. It’s all for the purpose of improving the Sox’ poor defense against the steal last season.
If and when he gets an opportunity to be a No. 1 catcher — Pierzynski’s contract is up after this season — the Sox will want more offense than Flowers has offered. Between the work on his hitting and defense, Flowers is one of the busiest men in camp.
The Sox will take more offense now from Flowers, who is trying to quiet down his leg kick and ‘‘have a better foundation.’’
‘‘We’ll get it done,’’ Flowers said.