Backup role a tough shift for Flowers

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Backup role a tough shift for Flowers

Tyler Flowers has never played fewer than 100 games in a full season in his professional career. Barring something unexpected, that'll change in 2012.

Flowers has gone from a highly-touted catching prospect -- the centerpiece of 2008's Javier Vazquez trade -- to a 26-year-old backup on this year's White Sox, which should be his first full year in the majors if everything goes right. But this isn't the role Flowers envisioned, even if he's okay with it.

"Right now, this is the best situation for the team. I'm perfectly happy with my position right now," Flowers said. "A couple years from now, I don't know if I'll be happy, but it's good to be here and be part of this team."

Flowers has no intention of being a career backup, like Ramon Castro. Flowers said he spoke to the former Sox catcher last year about handling the role, and that Castro's advice has been a big help. And while the adjustment to a backup role hasn't been easy on Flowers, he certainly understands his responsibilities.

"There's probably nothing I do or don't do today that's going to make or break me next week," Flowers explained. "I think that's how you have to approach it. Priority one being a backup at any position is defense, and my defense is getting that pitcher to have a good start, keep us in the game. If I do that, opportunities will present themselves down the road. Getting hits is just a bonus."

But Flowers' bat is more than just a bonus. The righty has loads of power and frequently peppers the center field ivy at U.S. Cellular Field with gargantuan blasts in batting practice. He hit five home runs in 38 major-league games last year, and while strikeouts are an issue, he still has good offensive potential for a catcher.

Reaching that potential would be easier if Flowers was playing every day, but he and his coaches are working to combat that problem.

"It's a challenge," Flowers said of continuing to develop offensively. "I'm just trying to simulate as much as I can, whether that be one of our coaches throwing to me, doing at-bats, seeing breaking balls, seeing something different than batting practice every day. That'll help a fair bit as far as recognizing pitches and such."

Those 38 games Flowers played last year -- which came when Pierzynski made a rare trip to the disabled list -- certainly helped Flowers' confidence. His play proved to him he belonged in the majors, and given his current spot on the 25-man roster, perhaps it proved to the White Sox he belongs, too.

"Being in the minor leagues for a long time, it kinda makes you start to wonder a little bit, maybe I'm not, maybe I am," Flowers said. "I think I took advantage of what I had last year and showed I'm capable of, for now, being a backup and hopefully one day starting."

Four top prospects among 19 players invited to White Sox big league camp

Four top prospects among 19 players invited to White Sox big league camp

Four of the team's top-10 prospects and a former All-Star are among the 19 nonroster invitees to White Sox big league camp this spring.

The team announced Monday that prospects Michael Kopech, Zack Collins, Zack Burdi and Spencer Adams have all been invited to camp next month. Everth Cabrera, an All-Star in 2013 for the San Diego Padres, Cody Asche, Cory Luebke and Geovany Soto are among the eight minor league free agents who also received an invitation. Pitchers and catchers report to camp in Glendale, Ariz. on Feb. 14 while the team holds its first full-squad workout on Feb. 18.

Kopech was acquired in the Chris Sale trade in December while Collins and Burdi were both selected in the 2016 amateur draft. Adams was drafted in 2014.

Signed earlier this month, Soto is expected to earn a spot on the 25-man roster. Soto, who played for the White Sox in 2015, finished last season with four home runs and an .809 OPS in 86 plate appearances for the Los Angeles Angels.

Cabrera, who produced 4.6 Wins Above Replacement between 2012-13, hasn't played in the majors since he appeared in 29 games for the Baltimore Orioles in 2015. Luebke, who has twice had reconstructive elbow surgery, finished with a 9.35 ERA in nine games for the Pittsburgh Pirates last season. Asche blasted 31 homers with a .240/.298/.385 slash line in 1,287 plate appearances since 2013 with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Other minor league free agents include: left-handed pitcher David Holmberg, right-handers Blake Smith and Anthony Swarzak, and catcher Roberto Pena.

White Sox minor leaguer pitchers Aaron Bummer, Brian Clark, Jace Fry and Matt Purke, infielders Nicky Delmonico and Danny Hayes, and outfielder Courtney Hawkins also have been invited to camp.

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