Tyler Flowers has handled job behind plate
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org May 17, 2013 11:26PM
Catcher Tyler Flowers has been throwing better since taking a shot in his sore arm two weeks ago. | Jae C. Hong~AP
Updated: June 19, 2013 6:22AM
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Six weeks into the Tyler Flowers experience, the White Sox stand firmly behind their catcher. As tempting as it is to lament the loss of A.J. Pierzynski’s bat in light of the team’s awful start offensively, the Sox like what they see from Flowers, despite his .202 batting average and .265 on-base mark.
“Catching-wise, he’s done everything we’d hope he’d do,’’ bench coach and former catcher Mark Parent said Friday. “He’s throwing better, and as far as running a game and calling a game, there’s no better guy to have back there.’’
Since taking a shot two weeks ago to alleviate a sore arm, Flowers has thrown out four of seven base stealers, raising his success rate to 20 percent. Closer attention to runners from pitchers has helped, but Flowers is getting on top of the ball better with his throws, Parent said.
“People [ask] ‘What’s his [release] time?’ I say, ‘How many has he thrown out?’ ’’ Parent said. “That’s all that matters to me. The guys you’re supposed to throw out, he’s been throwing them out.’’
Mike Trout might not fit in that class, but Flowers was quick to point out replays showed Trout was out at third on an attempted steal last weekend in Chicago.
“[Getting a shot] didn’t hurt; getting treatment and stuff, anytime you get rid of any pain or an inconvenience it makes it easier,’’ Flowers said. “And the pitchers have done a good job recognizing situations and keeping runners close.
“The last couple weeks I’ve been pretty accurate. Lately a lot has come together. I’m getting a little more of a chance and taking advantage by being accurate.’’
As important for the Sox is Flowers the receiver. Full-time catchers handle about 10,000 pitches a season, so getting a few borderline calls to go in your favor goes a long way.
“The challenge is keeping your body in shape and flexible enough to be in good positions and getting in a very low setup to eliminate that disadvantage,’’ said the 250-pound Flowers, whose size could be a hindrance to his mobility. “If you’re a big guy you’ll probably raise the strike zone because of your size but you can kind of manipulate that with your flexibility and setup.’’
Flowers sets up lower than Pierzynski did, which should give umpires a better look at pitches. Whereas some catchers drag the glove down and then bring it up on low pitches, Flowers says that “being stronger I have the advantage of sticking that pitch a little better than a smaller guy.’’
Manager Robin Ventura and pitching coach Don Cooper are pleased with how Flowers sticks to a game plan and how he calls a game.
“Coop is excited about having him back there and when he does need help he’s not afraid to ask,’’ Parent said. “Guys like throwing to him, and umpires like having him back there. That’s real important.
“He sticks to the plan, he discusses it openly during a game about adjustments that need to be made and there’s no hard feelings or petty b.s. going on. It’s what can we do to get guys out. And that’s what it’s all about.’’
As tempting as it might be to take a look at Josh Phegley, who is tearing it up at Class AAA Charlotte batting .326 with 10 homers and 26 RBI, Flowers will get a good, long look to prove he’s an every-day catcher.
Any offense Flowers can provide will be appreciated. And Parent remains optimistic on that front, citing a better, downward swing that has produced improved results of late. He was 5-for-14 in his last four games going into Friday’s game against the Angels.