Fresh Flowers up to White Sox workload challenge

Fresh Flowers up to White Sox workload challenge
June 7, 2014, 10:30 pm
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Though he has caught most of their games this season, White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers said he feels great.

With another start Saturday night, Flowers has now appeared in 53 of the team’s 63 games this season, which comes out to just over 84 percent. But Flowers said he hasn’t felt as if he has been too physically or mentally overwhelmed to this point while playing the bulk of games at a demanding position.

He credits his well-being in part to how the White Sox have managed him. The team didn’t play on Thursday, and Flowers was given Friday night off. That 48-hour respite can really help to recharge the batteries, Flowers said.

“You almost feel obligated in one sense if you’re just dragging and hurting and the other guy is pretty fresh,” Flowers said. “You’re almost obligated to let them know ‘I need a breather.’ I haven’t been close to that point thus far.

“I like to double up on off-days to really reset everything, that’s a pretty good idea. Thus far I think that’s why I have been feeling so good. Physically I’m fresh.”

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The White Sox know it would be hard for Flowers to sustain this pace all season long. Though the calendar has already turned to June, the White Sox haven’t played too many games in hot and humid weather, the kind that saps players’ energy. That’s why they have spent the first two months of the season gently breaking in rookie catcher Adrian Nieto. They want to get Nieto the chance to build his resume so to speak by seeing teams more and more often so he can increase his own book on what opposing hitters do well and don’t.

Nieto spent most of the first two months as John Danks’ personal catcher. But this week the White Sox switched it up a bit as Danks and Flowers worked together on Wednesday and Nieto started Friday with Andre Rienzo pitching. The idea is to give Nieto the chance to work with the team’s other starters outside of a bullpen session.

“We’re not going to get in the playoffs this month,” bench coach Mark Parent said. “It’s a long season and we have to take care of him when you can, and we have to find places for (Nieto) to get in there and spell him.

“You just have to keep the other guy sharp enough.”

Still, that’s easier said than done when Flowers feels good.

White Sox pitchers have long said they like working with Flowers behind the plate, that they trust him. Flowers has also shown his shoulder is healthy again, throwing out 13 of 45 stolen base attempts (his 29-percent caught-stealing rate is two percent above the league average).

Though his batting average has dipped of late, Flowers is showing he can handle the workload.

“Flow’s done a good job of keeping himself physically fit to be able to do it, and he calls a good game,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s done a very good job this year. So far, this has been the extent of it, but (Nieto will) eventually get there. As the season goes along, you’ll see Adrian get a little bit more here and there.”

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Flowers feels good about his performance.

He would like to be hitting better than a recent 2-for-26 spell that has dropped his average 35 points. But that stretch has also coincided with one of the hottest runs this season by White Sox starting pitchers.

So while Flowers wants to hit better, he can still take positives from the way he has handled the pitching staff.

And he really likes the challenge of being behind the dish as much as he can.

“Physically nothing really ever gets to the point where you can’t perform,” Flowers said. “On the mental side there’s a lot going on catching. You have to deal with the pitchers, calling pitches, you have to have good at-bats, you have different situations going on — there’s a lot of things going on. But that’s one of my favorite parts about the position. I kind of enjoy that mental challenge of the game and playing every day.”