NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- For the last eight seasons, A.J. Pierzynski has been a rock behind the plate for the Chicago White Sox; a durable, dependable presence whose status on the South Side is nothing short of iconic.
But with signs pointing to the White Sox not re-signing the free agent backstop, somebody will likely be taking Pierzynskis place.
Tyler Flowers wants to be that guy.
As it sits right now, theres a chance to go to the spring and win the job and be the starting catcher, Flowers said by phone on Monday. The hope is that Ill have the opportunity at spring training to have a level playing field to win the job and be the starting catcher. Thats what I hope for. Hopefully it will stay that way.
That all depends on the thinking of new White Sox general manager Rick Hahn. Here at the MLB winter meetings, he might find a trading partner for a veteran catcher. If the market drops on Pierzynski, the White Sox might even consider bringing A.J. back.
Theres still a chance of that. But yeah, Im hoping not, said a frank Flowers, who finds himself in a competitive pickle. He wants the best for Pierzynski, but he also wants the White Sox starting job.
I have no intentions of being a backup catcher the rest of my career, said Flowers, who turns 27 in January. My career is getting shorter and shorter every day that goes by. So I feel like Id like the chance to be a starter.
What are the White Sox thinking? We dont know exactly. Neither does Flowers. He says the last meaningful conversation he had with the front office happened halfway through last season when they told him to relax in his role as back-up.
They havent promised me the starting catcher position, he said. I wish they would, but thats not how it works.
Monday, I asked Hahn if the White Sox are comfortable with Flowers being their starting catcher.
If we wind up with Tyler behind the plate? Yes, absolutely," he said. "We arent there yet and we are still exploring other options, including A.J. However, if in fact we wind up with Tyler as the opening day catcher, we think that we will not lose anything defensively and we have a good young hitter capable of hitting for power and getting on base fairly regularly.
Pierzynski is coming off his best hitting season as a big leaguer. He set a career-high with 27 home runs and tied a career-high with 77 RBIs. Flowers finished with seven homers, 13 RBIs and a large blank space of the unknown.
What kind of numbers can he produce as an everyday catcher?
I have no idea, Flowers admitted. Ive never had the chance to play every day. I kind of think thats what Im hoping to get the chance to do. Everyone would find out at the same time. Id like to think I could do better than Ive done as a backup. Playing every day is a lot different than playing twice a week.
"It gives you a chance to do some things, work on things, tweak some things, instead of trying to get in position once a week to say, Hey, I better get a hit today. This is my one chance in seven days. I better make it count. When you know youre playing tomorrow, that changes the math, that chances your mind-set, that changes everything. I cant really put any numbers on it. I can tell you that Ill do better than what Ive done.
Flowers thinks the MLB Network can do better as well.
Friday, the channel aired the top 50 home runs of the 2012 season. On Aug. 15 in Toronto, Flowers crushed a homer off the Blue Jays' Aaron Laffey which might still be in the air.
It was estimated at 452 feet. Flowers thinks it traveled more than 475.
I dont know if Ill hit one again as far as I hit that one, he said.
Tyler got flooded with texts and emails from friends and family members wondering if his home run would make the list.
They all thought Id be in the top 10, said Flowers, who figured hed be somewhere around fifth, sixth or seventh. So they actually got me excited to watch it. I was like, This is pretty cool.
That was until Flowers watched the whole show -- and his home run didnt even make the program.
So then I had to deal with all the repurcussions of all my friends saying, What the heck?" Flowers explained. Does the home run not count because it was in a different country or something? Maybe they dont air Canadian home runs. Im not sure.
So Monday morning, Flowers sent an email to MLB Network -- half-joking, but definitely half-serious.
I dont appreciate the embarrassment for not including my home run, Flowers wrote.
As of Monday evening, Flowers had not heard back from MLB Network, but one of its on-air talent wanted to express his deepest apologies to the White Sox catcher.
If I have to go to human resources, Mr. Flowers, we will get that taken care of, said Dan Plesac, MLB Network analyst and former analyst at Comcast SportsNet. I dont make the decisions on the longest home runs, but anything to do with the White Sox, Ill go ahead and pull the strings if I have to!
If Plesac is tight with the White Sox front office, maybe he can pull some strings there, too.