Tyler Flowers determined to make most of second chance
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Staff Reporter March 4, 2014 10:35PM
GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Tyler Flowers is grateful for his second chance. He knows the White Sox didn’t really owe him one after last season.
Handed the starting catcher’s job last spring, Flowers responded by hitting .195 with 10 home runs in 84 games in a season cut short by a right shoulder injury that had bothered him since the fall of 2012 and required surgery in September.
So there’s your built-in excuse: If you’re not healthy, you’re not going to be at your best. The other one is that the Sox’ dreadful hitting woes last season called even more attention to his lack of production, added pressure and caused Flowers, who had a track record of being a good hitter in the minors, to press.
But Flowers isn’t into playing the excuse card. He’s just happy to be the catcher to beat in a race with Josh Phegley and perhaps Adrian Nieto. And he’s happy to be healthy again and hopeful that a more relaxed stance and approach will help him be the hitter he wants to be.
‘‘I’m glad to be back, first of all,’’ Flowers said Tuesday. ‘‘Glad to be back in a situation where I have a good opportunity to win a job. I can’t say I necessarily I expected it. I hoped for it.’’
It’s no secret general manager Rick Hahn covets a long-term solution to the Sox’ catching situation. After free agent Brian McCann signed with the New York Yankees, Hahn looked around for top young catchers but couldn’t find a good match in a deal. For one thing, there aren’t a lot of good, young catchers. For another, Hahn thought Flowers was worth a second look.
So there you go, Flo.
‘‘Understandable either way from their position,’’ Flowers said. ‘‘I’m just glad to be feeling good. I feel like a new player, so to speak, when you don’t have to deal with significant pain.’’
The Sox like the way Flowers, 28, calls a game, handles pitchers and thinks through pitching plans. They also think his blocking, receiving and throwing are adequate.
‘‘He’s a guy that I trust the way he runs a game,’’ said bench coach Mark Parent, a former catcher. ‘‘I’ve said this before: If everyone else is hitting last year, we don’t worry about his offense as much and he doesn’t worry about it as much and he has a decent year.
Everyone starts looking at your weakest link, so to speak. It affected him behind the plate.’’
Flowers had a rough day offensively Tuesday, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against the Cleveland Indians, but he likes the way he has felt at the plate this spring. He homered to center field against the Texas Rangers’ Neftali Feliz on Sunday and did so on a 2-2 count.
A new stance, which Flowers said took him some time to find, is more comfortable and keeps him in a better mental state to hit.
‘‘Stance is kind of underrated,’’ Flowers said. ‘‘There is a level of comfort for every guy in their stance, and it sets the stage for a guy in his at-bat, being comfortable in seeing the ball, being confident and relaxed.’’
Flowers describes it this way: ‘‘A wider base. Hands are definitely relaxed. I’m doing a better job getting a good load. Just really focus on trying to be on time, getting my foot down in a fashion that gives me a chance to swing the bat when I want to. That’s a big aspect for me — to not panic with two strikes and give myself a chance to hit the ball.’’
Flowers still thinks he can have a nice career in the majors. Confidence is essential, and he has that.
‘‘I definitely think I’m capable of being an above-average catcher in this league, without a doubt,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s a matter of doing it, being consistent.’’