White Sox

White Sox: Tyler Flowers struggles to find consistency at plate

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White Sox: Tyler Flowers struggles to find consistency at plate

There was a point in the 2014 season where Tyler Flowers not only found comfort at the plate he produced.

Flowers said Friday he routinely has experienced a similar position of ease at the plate this season but he hasn’t had the same results. While Flowers has reduced his strikeout rate by six percent this season, his overall performance has dropped. Through 300 plate appearances, Flowers is hitting .219/.268/.341 with eight homers and 32 RBIs.

“I felt like I’ve had a number of weeks where I’ve felt like (good),” Flowers said. “Results, I haven’t had that. It’s been kind of tough to get some consistent success and some breaks, some balls dropping in, anything like that. It seems like they’re extremely hard to come by most of this season.”

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While on the West Coast last week, Flowers even went as far as to say he was slumping and in need of a break when he had two balls called for strikes in a critical bases-loaded at bat that resulted in a strikeout.

It was at this time last season that Flowers was thriving at the plate. From July 9 through the end of the year, Flowers carried a .273/.326/.533 slash line with 10 homers and 24 RBIs in 178 plate appearances. Flowers said he started to feel good and produce toward the end of the first half this season but he hasn’t been as consistent, which has been a point of frustration.

“I said it to (Todd Steverson) yesterday, ‘It’s kind of frustrating putting in all this work for my whole life, you just can’t get over that hump to be consistent — at least consistently successful,’” Flowers said. “But I think that’s kind of the challenge of sports is like you still have to wake up with that motivation and competitiveness and keep working hard even though you went 0-for-3 last night with three good at-bats, to still come in here and feel like you need to work and want to work and that’s kind of the challenge of the game.”

The White Sox are likely to head into this offseason open to the idea of finding a long-term catcher if one is available. But that’s the rub — they aren’t the only team in search of a catcher. At least half of all major league teams (and more like 20) would prefer to improve their catching situation if they could do so at a reasonable cost. So while they’d like for him to hit better, the White Sox continue to be happy with what Flowers provides them through game calling and pitch framing.

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Flowers currently ranks second in Extra Strikes caught in the majors. White Sox ace Chris Sale constantly lauds Flowers’ game calling and trusts him to work through a start.

“I definitely hang my hat on that, especially this year,” Flowers said.

So does the coaching staff.

“You can always work on and get better at (offense),” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “There will be years where he'll have a better offensive season than others. But being able to handle a staff, calling games, is the number one priority for a catcher.

“You're comfortable with the way he calls a game. He’s done much better catching a game, calling a game, than he has in the past. I think he's elevated that to where he's getting some pitchers through some games.”

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.