White Sox

Flowers gets his chance -- kind of

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Flowers gets his chance -- kind of

At 26, Tyler Flowers no longer is the big-time prospect that made him the centerpiece of Atlanta's package of prospects sent to the White Sox in exchange for Javier Vazquez following the 2008 season. He's not going to dethrone A.J. Pierzynski behind the plate, at least not in 2012. And while a backup role isn't his ideal job, it's one he certainly can live with.

"I think I'm in a good spot if I'm just backing up and not being able to play as regularly as I'd like," Flowers said. "There's still a lot of education in being up here for a full season, learning from A.J. over the course of a full year to see how a guy like himself prepares everyday. And just getting the experience of being around an entire big-league season, I think it's going to beneficial no matter what my playing time is throughout the year."

Flowers and Pierzynski didn't exactly get along when they first met, though. In a seminar Sunday, Flowers mentioned that he and Pierzynski had some confrontations early on, but now are on good terms and talk quite a bit.

Maybe the tense nature of their nascent relationship was due to the fact that Flowers was penciled in to take Pierzynski's spot on the roster down the road. If all went according to plan, Flowers would've took over as the White Sox starting catcher in 2011. Pierzynski, solidly in his mid-30's, would have his contract expire following the 2010 season, which saw him post a career-low OPS of .688.

But Flowers hit just .220 with a .344 OBP in 2010 with Charlotte with an alarming 121 strikeouts. During that season, Flowers worked on making some tweaks to his swing and plate approach that were handed down by Kenny Williams, Greg Walker and Jeff Gellinger. He initially struggled with those changes, but instead of trying to revert back to his old swing and approach, Flowers worked through his issues and produced at a high clip in Triple-A last year.

"It's becoming more and more normal to me over time," Flowers said. "It's been a couple years now working with that approach and that swing. It's been very consistent this offseason. I'm definitely looking forward to putting it together in spring against live pitching, seeing how it holds up and where the problems come in."

Three years ago, few would've predicted Flowers' offense would be his greatest question mark. His defense earned poor reviews by many who saw him, with his footwork, arm and body type leading to predictions that Flowers' ultimate destination was at first base or designated hitter.

But in his 262 23 innings at the major-league level in 2011, Flowers wasn't a disaster behind the plate. Far from it -- he was, at worst, capable.

He didn't need to prove anything, at least to the White Sox. The front office has been telling him for years how happy they are with his defensive improvements. His teammates have his back, too.

"Tyler's come a long way," said starter Jake Peavy. "Since I got traded over here, I was in the minor leagues with Tyler watching him develop.

"He deserves to be in the big leagues. Obviously, we have A.J. Pierzynski and his track record throughout his career speaks for itself. But we have two very good catchers on this roster."

In filling in for Pierzynski for most of the month of August, Flowers developed a good rapport with the team's pitching staff, which remains largely intact heading into the 2012 season, except for one big name.

"I had a good one with Mark Buehrle," Flowers said with a wry grin. "Too bad he's not here.

"The other guys, we all have good relationships. I felt like we had a lot of success together. It helped solidify the opportunity to be a catcher here in Chicago, to have that good experience, to have some success working with guys and have that carry over into the season, it's definitely a good thing."

Take it from Peavy. Flowers has earned this chance, even if it's just as a backup.

"He's a big-league catcher," Peavy said. "That's the bottom line."

The White Sox sent down Carson Fulmer, so why isn't Lucas Giolito receiving the same treatment?

The White Sox sent down Carson Fulmer, so why isn't Lucas Giolito receiving the same treatment?

Lucas Giolito is having a rough go of things in his second year with the White Sox.

He came into the season with some pretty high expectations after posting a 2.38 ERA in seven starts at the end of the 2017 campaign and then dominating during spring training. But he’s done anything but dominate since this season started, and after one of his worst outings in Thursday’s 9-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, he’s got a 7.53 ERA in 10 starts in 2018.

Giolito stuck around for only four outs Thursday, but he allowed the Orioles to do plenty of damage, giving up seven runs on six hits — two of which were back-to-back home runs to start the second inning — and three walks. He leads the American League with his 37 walks.

“I take what I do very seriously. I work as hard as I can at it,” Giolito said. “So when I experience failure like this, it’s kind of hard to deal with. All I can do is come back tomorrow, keep working on things and hopefully have a better one.”

All of Giolito’s struggles have fans wondering why the White Sox haven’t sent him down to Triple-A to work on his craft.

“I don’t foresee that at this particular time,” Rick Renteria said when asked if Giolito could be sent to Triple-A. “I think he’s just a young man who’s got to continue to minimize the emotional aspect of crossing from preparation into the game and staying focused, relaxed and hammer the zone with strikes. And truthfully it’s just first-pitch strike and get after the next one.”

The White Sox have already sent one young pitcher down in Carson Fulmer, who was having a nightmarish time at the big league level. Fulmer’s results were worse than Giolito’s on a regular basis. He got sent down after posting an 8.07 ERA in nine outings.

But hasn’t Giolito suffered through command issues enough to warrant some time away from the major league limelight? According to his manager, Giolito’s situation is vastly different than Fulmer’s.

“I don’t see them anywhere near each other,” Renteria said. “They’re two different competitors in terms of the outcomes that they’ve had. Lucas has at least had situations in which he might have struggled early and been able to gain some confidence through the middle rounds of his start and continue to propel himself to finish some ballgames, give us six or seven innings at times. So it’s two different guys.

“With Gio, I expect that we would have a nice clean start from the beginning, but when he doesn’t I still feel like if he gets through it he’ll settle down and continue to hammer away at what he needs to do in order to get deeper into a ballgame, and that was a little different with Carson. With Carson it was right from the get-go he was struggling, and he had a difficult time extending his outings after the third or fourth because it just kept getting too deep into his pitch count and not really hammering the strike zone as much.”

Renteria is not wrong. Giolito has had a knack to take a rough beginning to a start and turn it into five or six innings. Notably, he gave up a couple first-inning runs and walked seven hitters and still got the win against the Cubs a week and a half ago. And while his first-inning ERA is 10.80 and his second-inning ERA is 12.54, he’s pitched into at least the sixth inning in seven of his 10 starts.

Renteria’s point is that Giolito is learning how to shake off early damage and achieving the goal, most times out, of eating up innings and keeping his team in the game. Those are a couple valuable qualities to develop for a young pitcher. But are those the lone qualities that determine that Giolito is suited to continue his learning process at the major league level? His command remains a glaring problem, and both he and Renteria admitted that his problems are more mental than physical.

“The one thing everyone has to understand is we have to go beyond the physical and attack a little bit more of the mental and emotional and try to connect and slow that down,” Renteria said. “Those aspects are the ones that ultimately, at times, deal in the derailment of the physical action. So if we can kind of calm that down a little bit.

“He’s very focused. Giolito is high intensity. Nice kid but high-intensity young man when he gets on the mound. You might not believe it. He’s going 100 mph. So I think it goes to more just trusting himself, trusting the process, taking it truthfully one pitch at a time.”

Well, if a demotion to the minors isn’t likely, what about moving Giolito to the bullpen? Carlos Rodon and Chris Sale dipped their toes in bullpen waters before moving to the rotation. Could a reversal of that strategy help Giolito?

Well, the current state of the White Sox starting rotation — Fulmer in the minors, Miguel Gonzalez on the 60-day DL and pitchers like James Shields, Hector Santiago and Dylan Covey, who aren’t exactly long-term pieces, getting a lot of starts — doesn’t really allow for another piece to be removed.

“I know they have done it with Rodon and Sale,” Renteria said. “The difference is we don’t have the makeup of the starting rotation that those clubs had in order to put those guys in the ‘pen. We are in a different situation right now. Moving forward, is that something we can possibly do? Absolutely. It has been done with very good success.

“Right now we are in truly discovery mode and adjustment mode and adapting and trying to do everything we can to get these guys to develop their skill sets to be very usable and effective at the major league level and we are doing it to the best of our ability.”

There could be promise in the fact that Giolito has turned a season around as recently as last year. Before he was impressing on the South Side in August and September, he was struggling at Triple-A Charlotte. Even after he ironed things out, things had gotten off to a rocky enough start that he owned a 4.48 ERA and 10 losses when he was called up to the bigs.

It doesn’t seem Giolito will be going back to Charlotte, unless things continue to go in a dramatically poor direction. Right now, these are just more of the growing pains during this rebuilding process. “The hardest part of the rebuild” doesn’t just means wins and losses. It means watching some players struggle through speed bumps as they continue to develop into what the White Sox hope they’ll be when this team is ready to compete.

Danny Farquhar to throw out the first pitch before White Sox game on June 1

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AP

Danny Farquhar to throw out the first pitch before White Sox game on June 1

In another example of how amazing Danny Farquhar’s recovery has been, the pitcher will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the White Sox game on June 1.

Farquhar suffered a brain hemorrhage from a ruptured aneurysm during the sixth inning of the team’s April 20 game against the Houston Astros. But his recovery has been astounding, and he was discharged from the hospital on May 7. Farquhar’s neurosurgeon expects him to be able to pitch again in future seasons.

Farquhar has been back to visit his teammates at Guaranteed Rate Field a couple times since leaving the hospital. June 1 will mark his return to a big league mound, even if it’s only for a ceremonial first pitch with his wife and three children. Doctors, nurses and staff from RUSH University Medical Center will be on hand for Farquhar’s pitch on June 1.

The White Sox announced that in celebration of Farquhar’s recovery, they will donate proceeds from all fundraising efforts on June 1 to the Joe Niekro Foundation, an organization committed to supporting patients and families, research, treatment and awareness of brain aneurysms.