Tyler Flowers hopes hot bat keeps him in White Sox’ lineup
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Staff Reporter April 19, 2014 11:38PM
Texas Rangers' Robinson Chirinos, left, runs home to score on Josh Wilson's hit in the fourth inning of a baseball game as Chicago White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers moves to get the throw from the outfield in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, April 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Dallas Morning News, Louis DeLuca) MANDATORY CREDIT; NO SALES; MAGAZINES OUT; TV OUT; INTERNET USE BY AP MEMBERS ONLY
Updated: May 21, 2014 9:48AM
ARLINGTON, Texas — If Tyler Flowers keeps this up, manager Robin Ventura won’t even want to take him out of the lineup. That would be a good thing for Flowers, because the White Sox catcher wants the work.
“Ideally I would like to catch 130-plus games,’’ Flowers said. “One-forty may be a stretch. I’m sure everybody wants to do that like Russell Martin and [Brian] McCann used to do. That’s pretty good.’’
A .195 hitter in 84 games last season, Flowers is healthy after giving in to a right-shoulder problem in 2013 and is flourishing with a new comfort zone at the plate that has helped him get off to a .360 start through the Sox’ first 18 games.
Flowers’ fast start is one of the pleasant surprises of April, and if he turns out to be a decent offensive player and not the one who hit .200 with 22 homers over his first 529 major league at-bats coming in to the season, he could turn out to be the one who stabilizes a position that has been considered to be a weak link.
We’re only 18 games into a season, so nobody, including general manager Rick Hahn, is jumping the gun on Flowers’ hot start. But it’s possible the 28-year-old might have discovered something — a new approach at the plate he took hold of during spring training — that’s worth keeping.
“That’s a big part of it,’’ he said Saturday before the Sox’ 6-3 loss to the Texas Rangers. “It seems to help with the consistency even though some days and at-bats have been off. I’m definitely having more quality at-bats. It’s allowed me to swing at better pitches, recognize pitches better.
Flowers said his approach reduces his “margin of error, with a timing aspect where you don’t have to be dead on, I can be out front, I can keep the bat in the zone longer and put a ball in play, doink one over the infield or hit a liner in the gap. Before, my timing had to be dead-on for me to barrel it up decent.’’
Hitting safely for the 10th time in his 14 games, Flowers “doinked” a single to right in his second time up on, but the Sox were a couple doinks short against the Rangers and lost for the fourth consecutive night, including the first two of a seven-game road trip that continues in Detroit.
No. 2 starter Jose Quintana gave up five runs on nine hits over five innings, putting the Sox in a 5-1 hole. Dayan Viciedo’s two-run single in the eighth cut the lead to 5-3, but Alexei Ramirez — who hit into a bases-loaded double play in the second against starter Colby Lewis (1-1) — hit into an inning-ending double play against Alexi Ogando, halting his club record hitting streak to start a season at 17. Kevin Kouzmanoff led off the Rangers’ eighth with a home run against Jake Petricka.
Jose Abreu came out of a 1-for-25 slump with two singles and a walk for the Sox (6-8) and Adam Dunn singled three times and lined out hard to center, raising his average to .304.
Flowers’ handling of the pitching staff was never an issue, and he has made subtle improvements blocking balls and framing pitches. All of that matters at one of the game’s most important, demanding positions.
Flowers played in 84 games last season and 52 as a backup in 2012, so being a workhorse would be uncharted territory.
“It reiterates your importance of being behind the plate,’’ Flowers said, “because you play a lot if you’re on a successful team. Otherwise there’s no point in doing it, so it’s kind of a catch 22. If the team is doing well, you end up playing more because you’re a part of the success. I hope that’s what happens.’’