With A.J. out, White Sox confident with new starting catcher Tyler Flowers
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org March 18, 2013 11:11PM
Chicago White Sox v San Francisco Giants
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Tyler Flowers’ homer in the Cactus League opener was good for the White Sox’ new No. 1 catcher. It was probably good for the big chunk of fan base that is having a hard time cutting the cord with A.J. Pierzynski.
It was a reminder that Flowers, who also has three doubles and is batting .316 this spring, has a chance to be a run producer in his first full season.
Hitting coach Jeff Manto believes he will.
“The more camp goes on the more optimistic I’m getting” Manto said about Flowers. “There is no real big timing mechanism that he needs. I’m really optimistic about what I’m about to see.’’
Manto is working on keeping his hands from dropping.
“Trying to keep it as simple as we possibly can be right now,’’ Manto said. “Cut a lot of fat out of his swing. We know there will be adjustments day-to-day and series-to-series, but right now he’s in a great place. There are no tricks or magic dust. Let’s just keep this thing as simple as we can.’’
Twenty homers and 60 RBI has a nice ring to it if you want to set a bar for Flowers’ offense this year. You know he has numbers in mind, but he’s not about to go there.
‘‘Not a clue,’’ he said. “It’s not the first time I’ve played everyday, just not at this level. I’m just worried about being consistent day-in and day-out.
“I don’t think about numbers. The biggest contribution I can make is the number of quality starts our pitchers get and helping our bullpen finish games.’’
Flowers, who bats right, replaces a left-handed hitting Silver Slugger Award winner in Pierzynski. Nobody sees that change of the guard as an upgrade. Defensively, however, it’s a different story.
“There’s a new era here, a new era in the catching department,’’ pitching coach Don Cooper said. “A.J. had a nice career with us, man, did a lot of great stuff. But that era is over.’’
While Flowers is braced for the ups and downs of hitting every day — “Good days are going to happen and bad days going to happen,’’ he said — Cooper expects a steady performance from the guy who’ll handle his pitchers.
“Tyler’s had a background now. He’s been with us the last year and a half, two years,’’ Cooper said. “He’s had time to catch everybody in games and in the bullpen, he’s established relationships with everybody. We’re very comfortable with him catching, receiving, throwing, blocking, the game plan. And I’m excited for the kid because this is the opportunity he’s been waiting for. That opportunity is in his hands now. And I’m pulling for him. We know from the defensive end, we feel very comfortable with that.’’
Flowers has been sidelined since Friday because of a stiff back, which brought to mind a Pierzynski strength — his durability. Flowers should be back catching Tuesday or Wednesday, manager Robin Ventura said Sunday.
“I’m not talking about the last guy. He gone,’’ Cooper said. “What I’m telling you is Tyler Flowers can catch, throw, block, move, establish a relationship with the pitchers and do everything we need.’’