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.”

Luis Robert leaves Arizona Fall League game with injury

Luis Robert leaves Arizona Fall League game with injury

White Sox prospect Luis Robert headed to the Arizona Fall League to get more playing time after injuries limited to 50 games in 2018.

He just got hurt in the Arizona Fall League.

Robert is playing with the Glendale Desert Dogs in the AFL and left Friday's game with an injury.

It's not clear what the injury was, but Robert walked off on his own power. He also has pulled out of the Bowman Hitting Challenge (a modified home run derby) that will take place Saturday.

Robert, the No. 4 White Sox prospect and No. 44 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline, was 1-for-3 in Friday's game before exiting. He has hit safely in all four games in the AFL, going 5-for-17 (.294) with a walk and three strikeouts, but no extra base hits.

The 21-year-old is the third youngest player on the team and the AFL is a respected offseason league for prospects. A good showing from Robert would be a sign that he is beginning to develop his talent into playable tools.

The injury could be minor so no need to ring the alarm bells yet, but the AFL season is barely more than a month long. Even a short-term injury could prevent him from making up for some of the lost playing time from the 2018 minor league season.

Sonny Gray is available: Could he be a one-year stopgap for the White Sox?

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USA TODAY

Sonny Gray is available: Could he be a one-year stopgap for the White Sox?

The White Sox have a hole or two to plug in their starting rotation. Could Sonny Gray be an answer?

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Friday that he's looking to trade Gray away from the Bronx this winter.

Gray isn't as attractive an add as he was a few years back, when he was coming off a sensational 2015 campaign that saw him post a 2.73 ERA and log 208 innings. He went to the All-Star Game and finished third in the AL Cy Young vote that year.

Since, he's been less successful. He made just 22 starts with the Oakland Athletics in 2016 and had a 5.69 ERA. The following season, he started with a strong 3.43 ERA in 16 starts for the A's before the midseason trade that sent him to the Yankees, where he made 11 starts with a 3.72 ERA. This season didn't go too well, earning Gray a move to the bullpen. He finished with a 4.90 ERA in 30 games, only 23 of those being starts. He threw just 29.1 innings over his final 10 appearances of the season, three of which were starts. He had a 5.26 ERA with 50 walks in 113 innings as a starter in 2018.

Those numbers won't leap off the page (in a positive way) for anyone, but there's no doubt that a potential deal for Gray would be a low-risk move for the White Sox. For a team looking to add 40 percent of a starting rotation, being able to do so cheaply — be it from a dollar or prospect standpoint — would be a good thing, especially if the strategy ends up being to simply add one-year fill-ins while Michael Kopech recovers from Tommy John surgery and Dylan Cease makes his way to the major leagues.

However, Gray's 57-walk total from the 2018 season could be something the White Sox would want to stay away from. After all, White Sox pitchers led the AL with 653 walks this season. They also had five of the top 21 walk-issuing pitchers in the Junior Circuit: Lucas Giolito led the league with 90, James Shields was third with 78, Reynaldo Lopez was fifth with 75, Hector Santiago was 15th with 60, and Carlos Rodon was 21st with 55. Gray slotted in right ahead of Rodon.

But Gray has obviously produced results in the past, and whether the White Sox are looking to simply plug the holes in the 2019 staff or potentially find a sign-and-flip candidate for the 2019 trade deadline — he's slated to hit free agency after the 2019 season — Gray could fit that bill. One thing's for sure: He's available.