Sox Drawer: Is Tyler Ready for A.J.'s Job?

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Sox Drawer: Is Tyler Ready for A.J.'s Job?

Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010
6:40 PM
By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz -- Not sure if Tyler Flowers watched the cartoon Dumbo when he was a child, but when it comes to the White Sox catcher position, hes like the giant elephant in the room, the hot-shot prospect being groomed to replace the one and only A.J. Pierzynski.

And hes not afraid to say it.

Of course I want his job, Flowers told Comcast SportsNet.

The only question is, when will he get it?

Not now. Or at least, not yet.

Flowers, ranked by Baseball America as the 60th best prospect in MLB, acknowledges that while hes ready mentally to start in the big leagues, I dont know if the White Sox think Im ready physically yet.

Flowers at 6-foot-4, 245 pounds is certainly big enough to catch in the majors, or play linebacker for the Bears.

Jerry Angelo, do you want his phone number?

What the 24-year-old really means is that he needs to spend more time physically behind the plate.

There are a lot of situations that havent come up in my development yet, Flowers said. I havent been catching that long. I havent had too many plays at the plate. Clutch situations where you got to be on top of the scouting reports, what pitch to go with, understanding the pitchers. Weve got a pretty veteran staff here. It would be tough for a guy like me, and for them, to let me be the starter now or sometime early in the season.

But next season? Thats another story.

Pierzynskis contract expires after 2010, and while both sides have expressed a desire to talk about a new deal, it wont be as simple as signing on the dotted line.

Asked about his approach to re-signing Pierzynski, Sox GM Kenny Williams told CSN, Im going to ask him what his expectations are and match them up with what I see our future roster looking like. Well see what budget issues are looking like, minor league guys coming up, a guy right behind him in Tyler Flowers coming up, and how that would work in the overall grand scheme of things, because were always trying to win.

No White Sox player has had a greater desire to win than Pierzynski, who has said all along that he wants to remain in Chicago. Williams expects to open dialogue with his catcher here in Glendale sometime during spring training. As of Thursday, it hadnt happened yet. But theres still plenty of time.

It takes two parties to get something done, Pierzynski said. And if they come up to us and say something then Im sure well engage in some conversations and see where it leads.

The 34-year-old signed a two-year, 12.5 million extension with the White Sox in 2007. Considering his leadership, knowledge of the game, and extreme durability, another two-year extension seems realistic.

But you never know.

Either way, Flowers says hell be ready. Next season. In two seasons. Or even (gasp) this season.

Im preparing myself everyday for it, Flowers said. Hopefully nothing happens to him this year, but if something does, hopefully Ill be the guy to step in, so I need to prepare myself for that just in case that happens. But knowing A.J. and the way he works everyday that probably wont happen, just like the last 10 years it hasnt happened. But just in case I got to be ready. Whatever happens next year, Ill be ready for that.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox slugger Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

Slumping White Sox get huge boost after Miguel Gonzalez 'defended his ground'

Slumping White Sox get huge boost after Miguel Gonzalez 'defended his ground'

Every factor but one suggested there was no way Rick Renteria would remove Miguel Gonzalez in the seventh inning on Monday afternoon.

Of course, Gonzalez didn’t know that.

But even as he walked to the mound with two on and no outs in the seventh and Wrigley Field roaring, Renteria didn’t have any intention of pulling Gonzalez.

Trades and injuries have given the White Sox manager even less wiggle room with which to work than the one-run lead Gonzalez was trying to protect. As long he was convinced his pitcher was game, Renteria would stay with Gonzalez. Gonzalez acquiesced and soon thereafter the White Sox were on their way to their first victory since July 8. The White Sox topped the Cubs 3-1 and in doing so snapped a nine-game losing streak.

“I just went in there to reaffirm that we were thinking the same way,” Renteria said. “He was thinking the same way. It was kind of easy.

“He said ‘I got this.’ He defended his ground.”

[Such a mighty wallop: How does Matt Davidson's mammoth home run stack up?]

Even though he had a front-row seat for the conversation, catcher Kevan Smith had little understanding of what transpired. The rookie said Renteria and Gonzalez spoke entirely in Spanish after Jon Jay and Javier Baez singled to open the bottom of the seventh inning. Smith heard Renteria mention to Gonzalez that lefty David Holmberg was ready to face switch hitter Ian Happ. Beyond that, all Smith heard from Gonzalez was ‘bueno’ and ‘listo,’ and Renteria was headed back to the visiting dugout.

But you don’t have to be a linguist to decipher what issues the White Sox pitching staff faces after a trying month.

Prior to Gonzalez pitching into the eighth, the White Sox hadn’t had a starter complete seven innings since June 16. An already overworked bullpen has also had to deal with season-ending injuries to Zach Putnam, Nate Jones and top relief prospect Zack Burdi. And those issues have been even further compounded by the trades of Jose Quintana, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle in the past 12 days.

So even though Gonzalez was on the verge of facing the top of the Cubs order a fourth time, Renteria had to stick with him so he could save top relievers Dan Jennings and Anthony Swarzak for later.

“I said ‘Just give me the ball,’ ” Gonzalez said. “ ’I’m OK. I’m fine. I’m feeling OK.’ Just walked away and I was able to get out of that jam. That was a big one.”

Smith was also happy with the decision. He liked how Gonzalez — who threw strikes on 73 of 105 pitches — had competed. Smith thought Gonzalez had great stuff and heard positive reviews from opposing hitters.

“(Gonzalez) had it,” Smith said. “The guys were coming up to the plate saying this guy has got some stuff today. It was a big moment to kind of prove that he can be a long guy, especially late in the game like that. Big pressure situation. Obviously it was getting pretty rowdy, but he stayed composed and pitched his way out of it.”

First was a five-pitch strikeout of Happ that ended with a swinging strike on a curveball. Jason Heyward then popped out to shallow center for the second out. Kris Bryant worked a five-pitch walk to load the bases. But Gonzalez jumped ahead of Anthony Rizzo in the count 1-2 before he got the star first baseman to fly out deep to center to strand the bases loaded.

Gonzalez returned in the eighth and retired one more hitter before he exited after a Kyle Schwarber single. The effort was plenty for Renteria and the White Sox, who also wiggled out of jams in the eighth and ninth inning.

“Sometimes you just don't have any other option,” Renteria said. “You just have to do what you have to do. They had a really good idea of how they wanted to attack those guys. …

“Miggy did a really nice job.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Sox win game one of Crosstown Series

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Sox win game one of Crosstown Series

Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun Times), David Haugh (Chicago Tribune) and Ben Finfer (ESPN Radio) join Kap to go over the exciting first game between the White Sox and the Cubs.

Plus, the latest on trade rumors linking Justin Verlander and Alex Avila to the Cubs. Do the Cubs really need to make another move?

Finally, the guys discuss whether Kyrie Irving asking for a trade out of Cleveland is the dumbest career choice, ever.