'Extreme' pain leads Flowers to shoulder surgery

'Extreme' pain leads Flowers to shoulder surgery
September 2, 2013, 1:00 pm
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NEW YORK -- Tyler Flowers' season is over.

The White Sox catcher will undergo exploratory surgery on his right shoulder on Thursday and is expected to miss 3-6 months, manager Robin Ventura said Monday.

Flowers -- who hit .195 with 10 home runs in 84 games this season -- said he has “fraying” in his shoulder and has known for months he needs surgery after receiving several different opinions. Whether or not his labrum is involved will determine whether Flowers misses three months or six, he said.

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But with his first starting opportunity ahead of him, Flowers played through pain he described as having reached extreme levels. With rosters now expanded, Flowers has opted for surgery in hopes he will be ready by spring training.

“The starting job was definitely a driving force to exhaust every option I could,” Flowers said by phone. “I’ve waited a long time for this opportunity and did everything to avoid missing out. … It’s something that has to be done. I could continue, but couldn’t perform at the level required by myself, my team or my teammates.”

Flowers initially tweaked his shoulder in early September 2012.

He has visited three different specialists since the All-Star break.

The first diagnosis said he needed surgery that would require only an 8-10 week absence, which prompted Flowers to remain on the field.

But he suspected the injury was worse because his pain intensified over the offseason as he began to prepare for 2013. He received several treatments throughout the process and attempted to rehab the injury over the last year but nothing took.

A recent MRI with the use of contrast dye revealed a more serious prognosis, Flowers said.

“It solidified what I thought was going on,” Flowers said. “As a ballplayer and an athlete, you know yourself better than everybody else. Initially when it happened I thought it was more like a tweak. What got me was when I was getting ready for spring, it intensified and that’s when I started to question it.”

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Though the injury isn’t a hindrance to Flowers at the plate, as evidenced by his long home run over the Green Monster on Sunday in Boston, it has bothered him behind the plate for a considerable amount of time, Ventura said.

“It’s been there for a while,” Ventura said. “He’s been suffering through it for at least a month or two. Again, you get to the point and I think he’s at the point where he feels like he needs to get something done.”

Flowers opened the season as the team's starting catcher as he replaced longtime fan-favorite A.J. Pierzynski.

Like several other hitters, Flowers struggled at the plate. Perhaps because he replaced Pierzynski, an unpopular move with the fan base, Flowers received more than his share of criticism for team-wide offensive failures.

But even though he struggled at bat, the coaching staff appreciated how Flowers has handled the pitching staff. Flowers also improved himself from a blocking standpoint after an early technical adjustment fixed an issue that caused him to have several passed balls. The team’s pitchers have backed Flowers for his game-calling and his ability to block pitches in the dirt. Before he was traded, Jake Peavy backed Flowers.

“It’s a testament to how good Tyler Flowers is,” Peavy said. “Big hits and he’s outstanding behind the plate.”

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Even so, Flowers' playing time has been reduced significantly after the July promotion of rookie Josh Phegley, who was tearing up the International League at the plate.

The White Sox promoted Triple-A catcher Bryan Anderson on Sunday. The team is also expected to promote Triple-A catcher Miguel Gonzalez this week.

Flowers is under team control but the White Sox may want more of a veteran presence behind the plate to go with one of their younger catchers next season.

He said he’d like to return to the White Sox next season.

“I thought going in catching was the priority,” Flowers said. “If you can catch, block and throw guys out, you can hang around. I thought that would buy me the opportunity to learn how to hit at this level. I felt I did a pretty good job catching. Hopefully I get another opportunity here or something else.”