If there's a monkey on Tyler Flowers' back, it's not off just yet.
The White Sox catcher had a successful debut as A.J. Pierzynski's successor, guiding Chris Sale through 7 2/3 shutout innings and hitting a solo home run to account for his team's only run in a 1-0 Opening Day win over Kansas City. A few boos were heard around U.S. Cellular Field when Flowers was announced as the team's starting catcher on Monday, the first time Pierzynski wasn't behind the plate on Opening Day since 2004.
If anything, Flowers' performance on Monday gave him a boost in confidence. The 27-year-old thinks a key to his season is to avoid doubting himself, especially given he's replacing someone with the long track record of Pierzynski.
"At the this point in my career, I can't live up to what A.J. Pierzynski did here," Flowers said. "I gotta do my own thing and be confident in what I'm doing and put my best effort forward every day."
Hitting the deciding home run was surely nice for Flowers, but he views whatever he does at the plate as nothing more than a bonus. After the game, Flowers was more proud of working with Sale to get him those 7 2/3 scoreless innings, which included seven strikeouts.
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"Absolutely, that's Priority One. The hitting and all that, that's a bonus, and it happened today it was the one run we needed," Flowers said. "Getting Chris that quality start, especially to open up the season for him, his first Opening Day start, I know he was pretty jacked up at the beginning, trying to keep him calm. I was real pleased with how he threw all day."
While Flowers contended Sale was the reason the White Sox won, the pitcher threw the compliment back at his catcher.
"He was awesome. Not only defensively was he there tonight, but what better way to win a 1-0 ballgame than for your partner in crime to put on in the seats," Sale said. "It was fun to watch and I was excited for him. He really picked us up and won the game for us."
Flowers and manager Robin Ventura know one game doesn't prove anything, no matter how big a hand in winning it he had. But for Ventura and the White Sox, there's no turning back. Pierzynski isn't coming back, and Flowers isn't going anywhere.
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The pressure isn't off Flowers just yet, although Monday's game was a step in the right direction to alleviating it.
"It’s his time," Ventura said. "We believe in him to be able to step up and do these kind of things. It’s nice. I think everybody is pulling for him to do that. Everybody felt great for him to be able to do it on Opening Day."