White Sox

Flowers has 'no intentions' of playing second fiddle behind the plate

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Flowers has 'no intentions' of playing second fiddle behind the plate

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- For the last eight seasons, A.J. Pierzynski has been a rock behind the plate for the Chicago White Sox; a durable, dependable presence whose status on the South Side is nothing short of iconic.

But with signs pointing to the White Sox not re-signing the free agent backstop, somebody will likely be taking Pierzynskis place.

Tyler Flowers wants to be that guy.

As it sits right now, theres a chance to go to the spring and win the job and be the starting catcher, Flowers said by phone on Monday. The hope is that Ill have the opportunity at spring training to have a level playing field to win the job and be the starting catcher. Thats what I hope for. Hopefully it will stay that way.

That all depends on the thinking of new White Sox general manager Rick Hahn. Here at the MLB winter meetings, he might find a trading partner for a veteran catcher. If the market drops on Pierzynski, the White Sox might even consider bringing A.J. back.

Theres still a chance of that. But yeah, Im hoping not, said a frank Flowers, who finds himself in a competitive pickle. He wants the best for Pierzynski, but he also wants the White Sox starting job.

I have no intentions of being a backup catcher the rest of my career, said Flowers, who turns 27 in January. My career is getting shorter and shorter every day that goes by. So I feel like Id like the chance to be a starter.

What are the White Sox thinking? We dont know exactly. Neither does Flowers. He says the last meaningful conversation he had with the front office happened halfway through last season when they told him to relax in his role as back-up.

They havent promised me the starting catcher position, he said. I wish they would, but thats not how it works.

Monday, I asked Hahn if the White Sox are comfortable with Flowers being their starting catcher.

If we wind up with Tyler behind the plate? Yes, absolutely," he said. "We arent there yet and we are still exploring other options, including A.J. However, if in fact we wind up with Tyler as the opening day catcher, we think that we will not lose anything defensively and we have a good young hitter capable of hitting for power and getting on base fairly regularly.

Pierzynski is coming off his best hitting season as a big leaguer. He set a career-high with 27 home runs and tied a career-high with 77 RBIs. Flowers finished with seven homers, 13 RBIs and a large blank space of the unknown.

What kind of numbers can he produce as an everyday catcher?

I have no idea, Flowers admitted. Ive never had the chance to play every day. I kind of think thats what Im hoping to get the chance to do. Everyone would find out at the same time. Id like to think I could do better than Ive done as a backup. Playing every day is a lot different than playing twice a week.

"It gives you a chance to do some things, work on things, tweak some things, instead of trying to get in position once a week to say, Hey, I better get a hit today. This is my one chance in seven days. I better make it count. When you know youre playing tomorrow, that changes the math, that chances your mind-set, that changes everything. I cant really put any numbers on it. I can tell you that Ill do better than what Ive done.

Flowers thinks the MLB Network can do better as well.

Friday, the channel aired the top 50 home runs of the 2012 season. On Aug. 15 in Toronto, Flowers crushed a homer off the Blue Jays' Aaron Laffey which might still be in the air.

It was estimated at 452 feet. Flowers thinks it traveled more than 475.

I dont know if Ill hit one again as far as I hit that one, he said.

Tyler got flooded with texts and emails from friends and family members wondering if his home run would make the list.

They all thought Id be in the top 10, said Flowers, who figured hed be somewhere around fifth, sixth or seventh. So they actually got me excited to watch it. I was like, This is pretty cool.

That was until Flowers watched the whole show -- and his home run didnt even make the program.

So then I had to deal with all the repurcussions of all my friends saying, What the heck?" Flowers explained. Does the home run not count because it was in a different country or something? Maybe they dont air Canadian home runs. Im not sure.

So Monday morning, Flowers sent an email to MLB Network -- half-joking, but definitely half-serious.

I dont appreciate the embarrassment for not including my home run, Flowers wrote.

As of Monday evening, Flowers had not heard back from MLB Network, but one of its on-air talent wanted to express his deepest apologies to the White Sox catcher.

If I have to go to human resources, Mr. Flowers, we will get that taken care of, said Dan Plesac, MLB Network analyst and former analyst at Comcast SportsNet. I dont make the decisions on the longest home runs, but anything to do with the White Sox, Ill go ahead and pull the strings if I have to!

If Plesac is tight with the White Sox front office, maybe he can pull some strings there, too.

Eloy's comin' to Charlotte, but how long before he's playing on the South Side?

Eloy's comin' to Charlotte, but how long before he's playing on the South Side?

The No. 1 prospect in the White Sox loaded farm system got a step closer to playing in the major leagues Thursday.

Eloy Jimenez was the headliner in a ridiculously large number of promotions throughout the organization that signaled that despite a 25-games-under-.500 record at the big league level, the rebuilding effort is progressing nicely.

But antsy fans and observers who want to see the fruits of that effort land on the South Side as soon as possible have the same question now that Jimenez is a Charlotte Knight as they did when he was a Birmingham Baron: When will he be inserted into Rick Renteria's everyday lineup?

Director of player development Chris Getz didn’t have that answer Thursday when he was discussing all the minor league movement. But he outlined exactly what’s had White Sox fans salivating over the idea of Jimenez in the major league lineup.

“He’s done nothing but hit with us, and he’s continuing to do that,” Getz said on the conference call. “He’s driving the ball to all fields with power. The hit tool is very good, as well. He’s hammering fastballs. Talking about maturity, he’s definitely beyond his years in how he handles the game as a whole.

“When he steps into the box, it seems that you’re looking at a guy that plays in the big leagues already, and he’s not. He’s controlling the zone, he’s driving the ball, he’s making good decisions. We’ll see what he can do up at Charlotte.”

With Jimenez mashing at Birmingham this season — to the tune of .317/.368/.556 with 10 homers and 42 RBIs in 53 games — plenty have wondered why a pit stop at Charlotte is even necessary. General manager Rick Hahn has answered that question in the past, pointing to the different kind of pitching that Jimenez will face, and Getz echoed that thinking Thursday.

“At Charlotte, you’re going to run into guys that have a little more experience,” Getz said. “Some may have pitched in the big leagues, some might have been labeled those ‘4-A’ types. But what comes with that is more off-speed pitches, pitching backwards, being able to locate a little bit more. It will be interesting to see how he does respond with guys attacking him a little bit differently.

“We as an organization believe he’s going to be able to accomplish pretty much the same type of things he’s been accomplishing at Charlotte.”

That would be good news for those eagerly awaiting Jimenez’s arrival in Chicago because if he dominates at the plate at Triple-A the way he did at Double-A, then another promotion could be a possibility before the 2018 major league season runs out.

Of course before that happens, the White Sox want Jimenez to master things at the Triple-A level. Hahn mentioned before the season started that a good developmental season could end without Jimenez joining the big league squad at all. Like with all things in this rebuilding effort, the White Sox are going to be patient and do what’s best for the long term.

“He’s never played at Triple-A,” Getz said about a player who prior to joining the White Sox organization last summer had never played above Class A. “Now do I have full confidence that he’s going to go up there and hit? Sure. I absolutely do.

“If he continues to do so and forces our hand, we’re certainly going to have that conversation about him coming to Chicago. Let’s just get him in the lineup tonight and see what he can do.”

Eloy Jimenez and a bunch of White Sox prospects get promoted as the rebuild advances

Eloy Jimenez and a bunch of White Sox prospects get promoted as the rebuild advances

For White Sox fans focused on what’s happening at the major league level, there’s understandable frustration over the team’s 25-games-below-.500 record.

But in the minor leagues, progress is happening, and there was no more tangible sign of that than Thursday, when a host of the organization’s highly touted prospects, including top-ranked prospect Eloy Jimenez, were promoted.

Jimenez, ranked as the No. 3 prospect in all of baseball, is the biggest name of the bunch. He’s moving on up from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte, joining top-ranked pitching prospect Michael Kopech as being just a step away from playing on the South Side.

Jimenez got a late start to the season while recovering from an injury, but he’s put up impressive numbers, with a .317/.368/.556 slash line to go along with 10 home runs, 42 RBIs and 15 doubles in 53 games.

Plenty of fans and observers have deemed Jimenez ready for the majors right now, but general manager Rick Hahn had said for a while that Jimenez would play at the Triple-A level, citing the different way pitchers will attack him as a hitter and the oft-discussed boxes that the White Sox need to see every prospect check (the reason Kopech is still playing at Triple-A).

Jimenez is the organization’s top-ranked prospect, but the White Sox have created an unbelievable depth of highly touted guys and a lot of them were on the move Thursday, too.

Luis Robert, who just recently started his season after recovering from a thumb injury, was moved from Class A Kannapolis to Class A Winston-Salem, as Hahn said he would just a little while ago. Robert was the victim of overcrowding in the Winston-Salem outfield, a problem somewhat remedied by Thursday’s moves. The No. 3 prospect in the White Sox system and the No. 24 prospect in baseball, Robert slashed .289/.360/.400 with four RBIs and four stolen bases in just 13 games.

Dylan Cease, acquired with Jimenez in last summer’s crosstown trade with the Cubs, was promoted from Class A Winston-Salem to Double-A Birmingham. Cease is the organization’s No. 5 prospect and the No. 52 prospect in the game. He went 9-2 with a 2.89 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 71.2 innings with Winston-Salem.

Luis Alexander Basabe was one of the bigger stories of the first half of the minor league season, sticking out among a group of highly productive outfielders at Class A Winston-Salem. He was promoted to Double-A Birmingham after slashing .266/.370/.502 with nine homers, 12 doubles and five triples to go along with 30 RBIs in 58 games. Basabe is ranked the No. 13 prospect in the White Sox organization.

Luis Gonzalez tore it up in the first half at Class A Kannapolis, and last year’s third-round pick was promoted to Class A Winston-Salem. Ranked as the No. 18 prospect in the White Sox system, Gonzalez slashed .300/.358/.491 with eight homers, 16 doubles, 26 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 55 games.

Ian Hamilton was promoted from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte after posting a pencil-thin 1.78 ERA in 21 relief appearances. The No. 19 prospect in the White Sox organization racked up 12 saves in 13 save opportunities with the Barons and allowed just five earned runs in his 25.1 innings. Hamilton is a name to watch considering the bullpen of the future is far less defined than the White Sox rotation of the future.

Seby Zavala, ranked as the White Sox No. 21 prospect, showed during the first half that his prospect ranking should perhaps be much higher. He’s moving from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte after slashing .271/.358/.472 with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs in 56 games.

Alex Call, a third-round pick in 2016, was promoted from Class A Winston-Salem to Double-A Birmingham. Call slashed .256/.368/.421 with 19 extra-base hits and 28 RBIs in 56 games.

Joel Booker, who famously stole home for a walk-off win earlier this season and also won the South Atlantic League All-Star Game MVP award this week, was promoted from Class A Winston-Salem to Double-A Birmingham after he slashed .297/.389/.468 21 extra-base hits and 14 stolen bases in 53 games.

Blake Battenfield, taken in the 17th round of last year’s draft, starred for Class A Kannapolis in the first half with a 2.00 ERA in 13 starts. He struck out 69 batters in 67.2 innings and earned a promotion to Class A Winston-Salem.

Lincoln Henzman, another 2017 draftee, selected in the fourth round, was also promoted from Class A Kannapolis to Class A Winston-Salem. He had a 2.23 ERA and 60 strikeouts in his 13 starts with the Intimidators.