Backup role a tough shift for Flowers

Backup role a tough shift for Flowers
April 14, 2012, 6:00 pm
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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."