GLENDALE, Ariz. — Tyler Flowers probably has the early edge in the competition to be the White Sox starting catcher in 2014.
While Josh Phegley and Rule 5 pick Adrian Nieto are squarely in the mix for a spot on the active roster, Flowers’ experience puts him a little ahead of the others, manager Robin Ventura said on Saturday.
No decision on who starts at catcher on Opening Day has been made yet, but Ventura expects Flowers behind the plate when the White Sox kick off Cactus League play next Friday against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“We know what we get with Tyler,” Ventura said. “And I like the way he calls games and the way he goes, so he’ll be the starting catcher (Friday).”
Flowers’ first season as the team’s starting catcher didn’t go as planned.
He had a tough time at the plate most of the year and wasn’t as sound defensively as the White Sox thought until he later made a technical adjustment. A bum shoulder — which later required surgery — also hurt Flowers against base runners.
But the one area coaches think he excels is handling the team’s pitchers.
After an uncertain period in the offseason whether or not he’d be traded, Flowers signed a one-year deal worth $950,000 and avoided arbitration. While the team addressed many areas this offseason, the one it wasn’t able to find a long-term solution — unless Nieto pans out — was behind the plate.
That puts Flowers right back in front of the mix.
“I guess that’s good,” Flowers said. “I still have to get ready either way no matter what position I’m in, no matter where I’m at. I try to take advantage of every at-bat and every situation and improve and help the team in whatever fashion they want me to help.”
The White Sox hope Flowers can help himself out this season but not allowing struggles in certain areas to carry over to the rest of his game. Flowers hit .195 with 10 home runs and 24 RBIs last season, which didn’t go unnoticed by fans as the entire offense struggled.
By July, Phegley, who lit up International League pitching, took over as the starter and Flowers played sparingly the rest of the way.
“(Flowers) got to a point last year where it wore on him and then injuries kind of took it from there,” Ventura said. “He feels better offensively. He feels healthy, so you go from there. No. 1 is how you handle the game, the pitchers, and we’ll go from there.”
Flowers wants to put last year behind him and start fresh. He said he already has and feels as if he found something at the plate before the end of last season.
“Most of us are trying to forget about last season and recognize some areas that hurt us personally and as a team and improve on those. Other than that, I’m not thinking about it and I’m sure nobody else is either.”