Tyler Flowers sends ‘message’ to A.J. Pierzynski
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org May 3, 2013 10:44AM
Chicago White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers walks off the field following their baseball game against the Texas Rangers, Thursday, May 2, 2013, in Arlington. Flowers hit a three-run home run and the White Sox defeated Texas 3-1, handing the Rangers their first series loss of the season. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Updated: May 3, 2013 11:44AM
ARLINGTON, Texas — Take that, A.J.
Tyler Flowers had no reason to go there with an “in your face” reaction after hitting a three-run homer that carried the White Sox to a 3-1 victory against Pierzynski and the Texas Rangers on Thursday night. But there had to be a huge sense of satisfaction for the catcher who is off to an up and down — and mostly down start — after taking over for Pierzynski under intense scrutiny.
The win gave the Sox a series victory, a series that didn’t go well at all for Pierzynski, who had an eight-game hitting streak snapped. After sitting out the first game with an oblique strain, the former Sox pinch hit in the ninth inning Wednesday with the Rangers chasing a three-run deficit. He was hit by a pitch from Addison Reed, angrily flipped the bat and jawed at Reed, and strongly suggested it was intentional.
He started Thursday and was 0-for-4, flying out against Matt Thornton while representing the tying run and striking out against Reed in the ninth as the tying run.
Communications and banter between player and former team were limited. As Flowers crossed home plate after his homer, Pierzynski kept his head down.
“I didn’t really think about it,’’ Flowers said. “I thought it was kind of awkward coming home and seeing him standing there just like I thought it was awkward when he came up in the box yesterday. I’m sure he thought it was awkward when he had to face Thornton after catching him for [seven] years. I’m glad we got it over with, though. He’s got his at-bats against us, we’ve gotten him out, we’ve hit him. All that kind of stuff. It seems like all the drama should be over now when they come to our place.’’
The Rangers come to U.S. Cellular Field for three games in a weekend series Aug. 23-25.
Flowers, meanwhile, will be hard-pressed to match Pierzynski’s offense. The jury is still out on whether his defense and game-calling will be a significant upgrade. Either way, the Sox had to give him his chance. It was time.
“He keeps grinding and having tough at bats,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “That’s what he needs to do. It’s not easy, but he has to stay positive and get through it. Tonight he did it. That was a big hit for us.”
Flowers is off to a rough start, batting .186 with an on-base percentage of .250. He has fanned 26 times — which is not unexpected because a high strikeout rate is in his history. His four homers, though, put him on pace to hit 24 this season, and all of his homers have given the Sox a lead. They’ve also won all four games in which he has gone deep.
Taking over for an offensively productive, left-handed hitter in Pierzynski — who also happened to be a fan favorite who hit 27 homers and drove in 77 runs in his last year as a Sox in 2012 — has come with a fair amount of pressure. Flowers homered on opening day and had a good first home stand but it’s been a struggle since.
“It’s been a battle at the plate for me all year and I’m just trying to grind it out every time,” Flowers said. “Basically the gist of it is swing at good pitches, swing at strikes and lay off the balls. It seems like evidently in those situations I’ve been getting some decent pitches to hit and taking advantage of them.”
It was a full day for Flowers. Before the game, the Rangers held their dog-day event, allowing fans to walk their pooches around the field. One frisky canine got loose and ran all over the outfield, and infield, even stopping to relieve itself in short left field. Security could not corral it.
When the dog went into the Sox dugout, Flowers, in full catcher’s gear, went down to his knees to block it and helped security get the situation under control.
“Did you see me trap him?’’ Flowers said. “I got nervous though because it had its tail down and they can get all crazy when the tail’s down.
“It was definitely a good day.’’