White Sox

Flowers' first appearance goes well

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Flowers' first appearance goes well

Tyler Flowers posed for pictures, shook hands and received sound advice from White Sox fans at the Palmer House Hilton on Friday night.

Save for a few pithy remarks, Flowers first appearance as A.J. Pierzynskis heir apparent was smooth.

The White Sox catcher knows it will be difficult to replace Pierzynski, a South Side fan favorite who signed with the Texas Rangers this offseason. But for Flowers to get what he desires most -- an everyday catching job -- he will have to do just that, and hes ready for a chance.

Someone has got to be that guy, Flowers said. Its a challenge; another something to go along with the story. But it really has no affect on me. You wouldnt wish it for anybody, but thats what the situation is.

While one question directed at general manager Rick Hahn in his SoxFest seminar on Friday was whether or not the team is better off without Pierzynski, White Sox decision makers are confident they have made the right choice.

The two-time top-100 Baseball America prospect was the top minor-leaguer the White Sox received in a December 2008 deal that sent Javier Vazquez to Atlanta and they intend to give him a try. Though he hasnt been handed the job, Flowers is the clear favorite with spring camp 2 12 weeks away.

Were going to give Tyler his shot, Hahn said. Nows his opportunity, his chance to fulfill a lot of the promise that we saw. Were not going to bring in someone to push it or enforce it.

Flowers has already earned the respect of his teammates and coaches. Pitchers are on board with his receiving and defensive skills and his arm. Manager Robin Venturas coaching staff appreciates how Flowers, as asked, focused on his catching duties and didnt fret over his offensive struggles in limited plate appearances last season. Players know hes a hard worker, whether its conditioning, refining his defense or pre-game preparation.

Tyler's no slouch behind the plate, pitcher Chris Sale said. He works hard, he studies video, he looks at -- he's got 15 sheets of paper on the desk before a start. He prepares with the best of them and behind the plate he's awesome. I think with some consistent at-bats we're going to see a different guy this year. If there's anybody to step up and fill that void, it's him.

Still, Flowers, his teammates and coaches are aware fans will make a big deal of the fact Pierzynski is gone after eight seasons. They know the diehards are disappointed Pierzynski wont return after he slugged a career-high 27 home runs last season. The trick is -- and Flowers said it wont be a problem -- to not make the season about Pierzynski. Manager Robin Ventura has a plan in place.

I want him to just be prepared to do his job, Ventura said. He doesnt have to do his job and the perceptions of somebody elses job. Nobody knows what that would have been. Nobodys numbers are guaranteed. Its about going in at spring training and doing the work and thats for me to keep him focused on simple stuff, not thinking about outside pressures and expectations that somebody else has.

All Flowers would like is a chance.

He doesnt expect to waltz in and immediately win over the fan base. Thanks to several autograph seekers on Friday, Flowers knows I have big shoes to fill. He isnt going to be the same guy at the plate. Flowers will strike out more often than Pierzynski and wont hit .300. But he does offer big power and plans to make himself invaluable through his defensive play and hard work.

As long as hes given a fair shot, Flowers has no complaints.

Im going to strike out a lot more than he did, Flowers said. So we can go ahead and get over that. Its going to happen. I hope the stats look good at the end of the year. But the biggest thing is catching and handling the staff. I think (fans are) going to be open enough to give me a shot at it. Thats all I want. All I wanted was an opportunity. Its all on my shoulders now to do what Im capable of.

White Sox Talk Podcast: American League All-Stars rave about Jose Abreu

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: American League All-Stars rave about Jose Abreu

With Jose Abreu playing in the All-Star Game, we asked some of his American League teammates about the White Sox first baseman. Justin Verlander, Craig Kimbrel and Michael Brantley rave about Abreu, explaining why he’s such a great hitter and a tough out for pitchers. 

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

All Star of the present Jose Abreu trying to help Yoan Moncada become the All Star of the future for White Sox

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USA TODAY

All Star of the present Jose Abreu trying to help Yoan Moncada become the All Star of the future for White Sox

WASHINGTON, D.C. — While the White Sox wait for their All Stars of the future to develop, Jose Abreu is representing the club at the All-Star Game in the nation’s capital.

Abreu, elected by the fans to be the American League’s starting first baseman Tuesday night, might represent the White Sox present, but he’s a key part of their future, as well. While his contract situation remains a mystery — the team would need to extend him in order to keep around past the 2019 season — he’s helping to develop the players who are planned to make up the next contending group on the South Side.

No player is more under Abreu’s guiding hand than Yoan Moncada, his fellow Cuban who just a season ago was the No. 1 prospect in baseball. Moncada’s development from top prospect into star of the future is the biggest storyline of the season for the White Sox. And Abreu, the role model in this clubhouse, is in part tasked with helping Moncada do just that.

“Our friendship is special,” Moncada said through a team translator last week. “We’re always talking about everything, having fun. He gives me advice, and I always try to make fun of him. Our relationship has been for a long time. We were friends in Cuba. And now we are rejoined here. It’s just a very good relationship. I’m blessed having him here.”

“He’s a Cuban, and it’s always special to play with a fellow Cuban countryman. He’s a great kid,” Abreu said through a team translator Monday. “I think that it’s a blessing. The White Sox did all that they could do for us to play together. I’m just enjoying the moment and every day with him. It’s special. It’s definitely a very special feeling.”

Abreu is often lauded by White Sox brass as the perfect example of what they want their young players to become. His incredible production makes that an easy comparison: He put up at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first four major league seasons. But it’s what he does outside the lines that gets the highest praise. Rick Hahn, Rick Renteria and all of Abreu’s teammates constantly talk about his work ethic, his routine, his dedication to getting better and the way he goes about his business.

Moncada’s noticed. And he sees Abreu’s latest accomplishment — getting picked as an All-Star starter — as vindication that, yes, Abreu’s methods certainly work.

“Knowing him, knowing all the effort that he puts into his preparation, his work ethic, all that work that he puts into his preparation is paying off and he’s recognized with this election,” Moncada said. “That’s something that motivates you, something that lets you know that if you do things the right way, you’re going to get rewarded. For me, it’s a motivation, and I feel really honored to share this team with him.”

Moncada’s first full season in the bigs hasn’t gone smoothly. He’s had his hot stretches — including the last couple weeks; he’s slashing .356/.453/.644 since July 2 — but he’s also had long periods of struggles. Certain aspects, such as a propensity for striking out and making errors at second base, have been constants throughout the campaign.

Renteria refers to the mistakes and the poor results as teachable moments. Does he have a proxy teacher in Abreu?

“I tell him to enjoy the game,” Abreu said. “Enjoy the game, have fun, be a little more focused on the situation of the game. But I think the key is to have fun.”

Mostly, though, Abreu is convinced that Moncada will blossom into the kind of player White Sox fans hoped he would when he brought that top-prospect track record to the organization in the Chris Sale trade. The expectations are undoubtedly high, but Abreu’s been seeing Moncada meet them for some time. The two have known each other since the younger Moncada was 17 years old.

“I think that he was born with special abilities to play this sport,” Abreu said. “Before I met him, there were a lot of people talking about him in Cuba because of his abilities, the talent that he has. And when I met him, it was a very special moment. As soon as I met him, I realized, ‘Wow, what people say about him is true.’ His body type, his ability to play the game. He’s special.”

So will the All Star of today and the All Star of tomorrow one day share the All-Star stage?

“I would like to have that opportunity. Let’s pray to God to have that opportunity,” Abreu said. “If that happens, that would be really special for us.”