White Sox

Tyler Flowers optimistic for free agency despite 'tough' decision

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Tyler Flowers optimistic for free agency despite 'tough' decision

He’s headed from a situation where he never could live up to fan expectations to arguably being the top catcher in free agency.

So even though he was surprised Wednesday when the White Sox didn’t offer him a contract, Tyler Flowers is optimistic about his future. Not only is he the lone 2015 starting catcher available via free agency, Flowers is set to hit the market at a time when his skillset — in particular pitch framing — has received more positive attention than ever before. As one American League scout noted, Flowers’ phone should be ringing off the hook if it already isn’t.

“He should tell them thank you,” the scout said. “I bet he gets more than his (arbitration) raise in this market.”

Flowers feels like he’s headed into “unknown territory” and doesn’t know how much interest he’ll garner. But he should receive a boost from the scarcity of catchers available and the fact that he steals strikes like few other catchers.

[MORE: White Sox decline to offer contract to Tyler Flowers]

Statcorner.com had Flowers tied for first with Francisco Cervelli with an average 1.79 extra called strikes per game that were balls in 2015.

A three-year starter with the White Sox, Flowers said he worked hard to improve the defensive side of his game to make up for deficiencies with his bat. He also figured it would ensure him a longer career.

“There’s always a need for catching,” Flowers said. “I think that’s why when you come up as a catcher you put such an emphasis on your defense because there’s always a need for good defensive catchers. The fortunate few that are superior offensively and they’re good defensively, they get locked up to life-changing deals. That’s why it has always been imperative to me to be as good as I can defensively because ultimately that’s what’s going to help you keep a job.

"It stinks that it didn’t work out where I was at, but ultimately, that’s why I’ll land a job somewhere for next season and it’ll all work out for the best.”

No matter where he lands, Flowers should immediately start out on better terms with that team’s fan base than he did with the White Sox. From the outset, Flowers faced the constant ire of some fans after taking over for A.J. Pierzynski, who was allowed to depart via free agency in 2013. Flowers’ struggles in his first season as the starter (he hit .195 with 10 homers and 24 RBIs) only heightened the disappointment and the catcher never really recovered with fans, despite putting together a solid 2014 campaign.

Flowers said he embraced the challenge of replacing one of the more prominent faces of the franchise and thinks he’ll benefit in the long run.

“The situation I was in was kind of a tough one,” Flowers said. “It was an uphill climb from the get-go with A.J. being such a huge name in that town and with that organization that whoever came in after him. It was going to be a battle and it was a battle I was willing to take on. Ultimately, it didn’t work out for an extended period of time. But I was able to hang on to the job for a few years and get my feet wet, get used to the league and get acclimated and somehow now I’m almost a veteran of sorts. I feel like that brings on another whole value to myself that can help other teams.”

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Flowers — who was acquired with Brent Lillibridge from Atlanta on Dec. 4, 2008 — admits he’s surprised the White Sox let him go because of the way they have valued his work with the pitching staff. He thought they’d retain him and Alex Avila, who signed a one-year deal last week, and use the duo in a platoon. But even so, Flowers said he’s grateful to the White Sox for the opportunity.

“There’s definitely no negativity and hostility,” Flowers said. “If anything it’s probably the opposite. Very grateful a team saw me in the Arizona Fall League and thought they saw something that would help their club and they made an aggressive move to get me in their organization and then gave me some opportunities to be the starter and to hang around for a while. I’m very grateful for the opportunity.”

“The business side is tough. When you don’t have success and you’re expected to have success individually and as a team, the business side dictates that you’ve got to make moves so it’s definitely understandable.”

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

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AP

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

GLENDALE, Ariz. — On a day when Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada took live batting practice for the first time this spring, off in the distance was a lanky White Sox prospect standing in the outfield grass.

But Alec Hansen was doing more than shagging flies. He was watching both hitters very closely.

“I was looking to see how much pop they had,” Hansen said of Abreu and Moncada. “I kind of look at that to see the difference in power between minor league ball and the major leagues. It’s nice to see it’s not a huge difference. That makes me feel a bit more comfortable.”

At 6-foot-8 — actually 6-foot-8-and-a-half, according to his spring training physical — Hansen is a big man with big plans for his baseball career. He might be quiet on the outside, but he has booming expectations for himself on the inside.

“I want to be the best,” Hansen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

The best? The very best?

That’s what Hansen aspires to become, though later in our conversation, he did dial back a notch, settling for becoming “one of the best.”

Either is fine with manager Ricky Renteria, who is overseeing these uber-confident White Sox prospects and accepts their lofty expectations.

“I think their mindset is where it’s supposed to be,” Renteria said. “None of these kids are concerned or consumed with the possibility of failure. Much more they’re consuming themselves with the understanding that they might hit some stumbling blocks, but they’re going to have a way to avoid overcoming them and push forward and be the best that they can be.”

In his first full season in the White Sox organization, Hansen led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts. He’s proud of that accomplishment but admitted something: He’s not that impressed because he didn’t do it where it really matters — in the major leagues.

When you watch Hansen pitch, it’s easy to see that the talent is there. His coaches and teammates rave about his ability. With his enormous size and power arm, he is loaded with strengths.  

Though there is one weakness that Hansen acknowledges he needs to work on.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to think too much and worry. I think worrying is the worst thing that I do just because I want to be perfect,” Hansen said. “I think everyone wants to be perfect, some more than others, and I worry about things getting in the way of achieving perfection.”

To Hansen, that doesn’t mean throwing a perfect game. He actually takes it one step further.

He wants to strikeout every single hitter he faces.

“I love striking people out,” Hansen said. “Not having to rely on anyone else and just getting the job done myself and knowing that the hitter can’t get a hit off me. That’s a great feeling. That they can’t put it in play. Like a line drive out. That’s terrible.”

At some point, Hansen will have to lower these impossible expectations for himself. This is an imperfect game. There’s no place for nine-inning, 27-strikeout performances. Players end up in the Hall of Fame because they learn how to succeed with failure.

In the meantime, Hansen is here in big league camp watching and learning anything and everything.

“I’m a good observer. I listen. I don’t really talk too much. I’m a pretty quiet guy. I like to sit back and observe and see how these guys go about their business. Just trying to be at their level, hopefully one day surpass them.”

Surpass?

“It’s kind of hard to surpass some of these guys. I mean, they’re at the tip-top, like the pinnacle of the sport,” Hansen said. “I guess you could say, to get on that level and then be one of the best in the league.”

He might be on his way.

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

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USA TODAY

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

The White Sox freed up a spot on their 40-man roster Sunday, outrighting pitcher Dylan Covey to Triple-A Charlotte.

Covey pitched in 18 games last season, making 12 starts for the South Siders. Things did not go well, with Covey turning in an 0-7 record and a 7.71 ERA in 70 innings.

While there was an outside chance that Covey could have provided at least some starting-pitching depth heading into the 2018 season, the team's recent additions of Miguel Gonzalez and Hector Santiago — not to mention Covey's results from last season — wiped out that idea.

At the moment, the White Sox starting rotation figures to look like this by Opening Day: James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer, with Santiago seeming like a good option to provide depth as the long man in the bullpen.