Surgery will end Flowers’ down year; Sox’ focus turns to Phegley
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Staff Reporter September 2, 2013 8:29PM
Chicago White Sox v New York Yankees
Updated: September 3, 2013 10:45AM
NEW YORK — Give Tyler Flowers credit for going out with a bomb.
If Flowers has in fact played his last game with the White Sox, he went out on top with a home run in his last at-bat Sunday.
After jacking one over the Green Monster at Fenway Park, he should have continued his home-run trot down the dugout steps and through the clubhouse door for bonus style points, never to be seen in a Sox uniform again. A wink and a nod to Josh Phegley to put on the gear and catch the bottom of the eighth would have been a fitting, symbolic touch.
It turns out Flowers has been dealing with an achy, sometimes extremely painful shoulder for exactly one year, and he’ll have surgery Thursday to determine what needs to be done. He’ll be out three-to-six months, depending on whether the labrum is damaged.
Monday’s announcement by manager Robin Ventura was the final and somewhat sad injury-to-insult proclamation that the Flowers experiment was a bust. Handed the starting catcher’s job in spring training after 36-year-old A.J. Pierzynski was allowed to walk, the 27-year-old Flowers homered in a 1-0 White Sox victory on Opening Day and hit eight homers between then and Fenway, but he didn’t do much else with the bat besides drive in 24 runs. He batted .194 and had an on-base percentage of .247.
By July 5, Phegley was up from Class AAA Charlotte to make his major-league debut and take over behind the plate.
Ventura said Flowers still could be a No. 1 catcher, with one important, weighty condition: That he hit.
“I think he can [be a No. 1 catcher],’’ Ventura said. “Defensively, he’s been what you wanted and calls a great game. Offensively, it’s been a down year. He’s going to have to fight his way back offensively to be that guy. His potential is there to do it.’’
Ironically, then-general manager Ken Williams touted Flowers’ bat when he traded Javier Vazquez for him in a multiplayer deal with the Braves in 2008. The defense, which was adequate, was the question mark.
Flowers can see that the Sox prefer Phegley — although the rookie from Indiana who put up big numbers at Charlotte hasn’t done much better than Flowers with a .214 average — so there’s a good chance Flowers will ask to be traded.
The shoulder, which affected Flowers’ throwing but not his hitting, Ventura said, started barking at him during spring training. He missed some time but sucked it up.
“The starting job was definitely a driving force to exhaust every option I could,’’ he said. “I’ve waited a long time for this opportunity and did everything to avoid missing out.’’
The Sox brought up catcher Bryan Anderson from Charlotte and also will bring up Miguel Gonzalez for the last month.
Phegley has plenty of room for improvement with the bat, and his drop of Alex Rodriguez’s foul pop about 10 feet from home plate was a signature moment in perhaps the Sox’ worst inning of the season in Monday’s 9-1 loss to the Yankees.
Dylan Axelrod, who came in to relieve Jose Quintana after a one hour, 53 minute rain delay in the second inning, was pounded for eight runs on seven hits in the tragicomic fourth. After Phegley’s error, first baseman Adam Dunn fielded a grounder by Curtis Granderson and threw the ball into short left field trying for a force out. Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham were also too slow on a double-play grounder.
“The Yankees are a great team — you give then an inch and they take a mile,’’ said Paul Konerko, whose 10th homer accounted for the Sox’ only run. “It kind of unraveled out there.’’