White Sox

Backup role a tough shift for Flowers

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Backup role a tough shift for Flowers

Tyler Flowers has never played fewer than 100 games in a full season in his professional career. Barring something unexpected, that'll change in 2012.

Flowers has gone from a highly-touted catching prospect -- the centerpiece of 2008's Javier Vazquez trade -- to a 26-year-old backup on this year's White Sox, which should be his first full year in the majors if everything goes right. But this isn't the role Flowers envisioned, even if he's okay with it.

"Right now, this is the best situation for the team. I'm perfectly happy with my position right now," Flowers said. "A couple years from now, I don't know if I'll be happy, but it's good to be here and be part of this team."

Flowers has no intention of being a career backup, like Ramon Castro. Flowers said he spoke to the former Sox catcher last year about handling the role, and that Castro's advice has been a big help. And while the adjustment to a backup role hasn't been easy on Flowers, he certainly understands his responsibilities.

"There's probably nothing I do or don't do today that's going to make or break me next week," Flowers explained. "I think that's how you have to approach it. Priority one being a backup at any position is defense, and my defense is getting that pitcher to have a good start, keep us in the game. If I do that, opportunities will present themselves down the road. Getting hits is just a bonus."

But Flowers' bat is more than just a bonus. The righty has loads of power and frequently peppers the center field ivy at U.S. Cellular Field with gargantuan blasts in batting practice. He hit five home runs in 38 major-league games last year, and while strikeouts are an issue, he still has good offensive potential for a catcher.

Reaching that potential would be easier if Flowers was playing every day, but he and his coaches are working to combat that problem.

"It's a challenge," Flowers said of continuing to develop offensively. "I'm just trying to simulate as much as I can, whether that be one of our coaches throwing to me, doing at-bats, seeing breaking balls, seeing something different than batting practice every day. That'll help a fair bit as far as recognizing pitches and such."

Those 38 games Flowers played last year -- which came when Pierzynski made a rare trip to the disabled list -- certainly helped Flowers' confidence. His play proved to him he belonged in the majors, and given his current spot on the 25-man roster, perhaps it proved to the White Sox he belongs, too.

"Being in the minor leagues for a long time, it kinda makes you start to wonder a little bit, maybe I'm not, maybe I am," Flowers said. "I think I took advantage of what I had last year and showed I'm capable of, for now, being a backup and hopefully one day starting."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: What should be the plan to call up the White Sox prospects?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: What should be the plan to call up the White Sox prospects?

SportsTalk Live is on location for White Sox Authentic Fan Night. Phil Rogers (MLB Network), Mark Carman (WGN Radio), David DeJesus and Ozzie Guillen join Kap to talk about Manny Machado Mania, Anthony Rizzo’s struggles and the White Sox plans for calling up their best prospects. 

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

White Sox add Alex Presley at Triple-A, another veteran outfielder who could factor into 2018 plans for banged-up outfield

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USA TODAY

White Sox add Alex Presley at Triple-A, another veteran outfielder who could factor into 2018 plans for banged-up outfield

Not long after the White Sox brought Michael Saunders into the organization, another outfielder with major league experience is joining Triple-A Charlotte.

Alex Presley — a 32-year-old who played 71 games last season for the Detroit Tigers and has also spent time with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Minnesota Twins, Houston Astros and Milwaukee Brewers — is the latest addition to the Knights’ outfield. He’s a guy who could potentially be used to help the White Sox outfield, which has seen two Opening Day players go on the disabled list for extended periods of time.

Avisail Garcia is in his fifth week on the DL while dealing with a Grade 2 hamstring strain. Nicky Delmonico is expected to miss the next four to six weeks while recovering from a broken bone in his hand. The White Sox might feel that the collection of Adam Engel, Trayce Thompson, Leury Garcia and Daniel Palka might be enough to get them through those injuries. But the results have not been great from that group. Engel and Thompson are both hitting under .200, while Leury Garcia and Palka have on-base percentages just above .300.

Presley, like Saunders, could be an option for a midseason promotion should he hit well in the minors. He hit .314 with a .354 on-base percentage in those 71 games with the Tigers last season. This year, he was playing in the Baltimore Orioles’ organization, where he hit .275 with a .347 on-base percentage in 26 games.

It’s possible we won’t see either veteran outfielder on the South Side this season (though having Presley here for Elvis Night would be pretty excellent), but it gives the White Sox options should the lack of production from their current crop of outfielders and the injuries to Avisail Garcia and Delmonico keep them out longer.

It’s also quite possible that none of the names mentioned to this point will have a role to play in this team’s long-term future, not an outlandish thought considering Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Micker Adolfo, Blake Rutherford and Luis Alexander Basabe are all still developing in the minor leagues.