CHICAGO -- Peppered with questions all weekend about team icon he is replacing, new Chicago White Sox starting catcher Tyler Flowers turned to a familiar face and had just one request: “Don’t ask about A.J.”
He knew the request to not hear about A.J. Pierzynski was futile and he is actually acutely aware that the questions will likely never go away until he is able to settle in and become a productive White Sox catcher.
But even that knowledge can’t seem to prevent what appears to be an edge about Flowers. He has long grown tired of the waiting and just wants his opportunity to arrive already.
“I’m not lacking confidence,” Flowers said. “I think that’s one of the biggest things in this game. I’m not arrogant by any means so hopefully it doesn’t sound that way, but I am extremely confident I can handle the job. I’m a good catcher and I deserve to be here.”
But his confidence has been shaken at times. He was in line to take over the White Sox’s starting catcher job in 2011, but he hadn’t shown enough progress in the minor leagues and the White Sox re-signed Pierzynski for two more years.
With Pierzynski now a member of the Texas Rangers, there is no turning back. Flowers was asked if the moment felt like a long time coming.
“Yeah it was; it’s good though,” Flowers said. “You serve your time, earn your opportunities. I’m fortunate that an opportunity became available and they had the confidence in me to give me this chance.
“I’m not taking anything for granted. There’s no guarantee on anything. From the sound of it there might be a guarantee on Opening Day, but that’s about it. If I don’t continue to work hard and produce and help the White Sox win, I might not have the job at the end of the year. The focus is to continue to get better.”
To that point, Flowers has already been working with hitting coach Jeff Manto and assistant hitting coach Harold Baines.
“We started talking in detail at the end of last season,” Flowers said. “We continued to communicate in the offseason. We’re sending video, making suggestions, trying this, trying that just to be comfortable. The biggest thing is that I’m able to be consistent with what I’m doing right now and that’s the biggest thing in this game.
“You do well, you struggle, you have to be consistent with something and I found what I am comfortable with. It has been able to be consistent the last few months in the offseason while working and that’s a great indication that I will be able to maintain it for a long period of time during the season.”
When the season comes, it will be impossible to avoid the comparisons to Pierzynski. Flowers can only hope he is judged by what he can do and not by the parts of his game that don’t match up to what Pierzynski did.
“I’m not A.J.,” he said. “I’m going to strike out more than A.J., so we can go ahead and get over that. I’m not worried about striking out or statistics to be honest with you. I hope the statistics look good at the end of the year, but the biggest thing is catching and handling the staff. For me, hitting .300 isn’t going to help us win as much as it is me doing my job behind the plate working with the pitchers. If we give up zero runs, we have a pretty good chance of winning that game.”