When he’ll actually play, that he doesn’t know. Thus is the life of a backup catcher.
The 26-year-old Flowers has played twice this season. He could play again Wednesday this week. He could play Thursday. He wasn’t sure as of Tuesday.
Flowers got a taste of the role last season after being called up the majors in late July, but even then he got to play somewhat consistently down the final stretch. This season, his first in which he’s begun in the majors, he’s had to adjust to playing just every once in a while behind starting catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
So far, Flowers has found it easiest to prepare as if he’s going to play on any given day.
“I think the best way to go about it is to do everything like you were playing every day as far as the routine, the working out, the weight train, the hitting early, the doing extra catching work, that kind of stuff,” Flowers said prior to Tuesday’s game. “Just keeping that a routine as I’ve done all my career when I was playing every day. Just trying to create the same thing day in and day out. It’s a big adjustment, but it’s also not a big adjustment if you stick to a routine.
“My mindset yesterday was preparing for today’s game. Now, once today’s game is over, I’ll go to tomorrow’s game and prepare as if I’m catching or an opportunity to pinch hit later in the game or something. [Manager] Robin [Ventura] isn’t afraid to do anything.”
To help get ready for his role, Flowers turned to former White Sox backup catcher Ramon Castro. Castro advised Flowers to stay active, including using the batting cage, during the games he’s on the bench.
“He’s been a pretty successful backup for a number of years, so I kind of picked his brain on what his routines are and applied some of those to my game,” Flowers said. “Kind of keep your mind busy. If you sit on the bench every game, it kind of will wear you down a little bit.”
Flowers also has learned that he can’t try to succeed in everything when he does get his chance to play. His key has to be consistency behind the plate.
“I can’t go out there and try to hit .300, can’t try to hit a homer,” said Flowers, who has a home run in six at-bats this season. “I can go out there to do my best to keep the pitcher in the game and give my team a chance to win. That’s my mindset every game. I know my coaches have been happy with it. If I end up hitting .100 and I win 20 out of 22 games, I think they’ll be fine with it.”
Ventura said he’s been pleased with both of his catchers so far this season.
“[Pierzynski’s] my No. 1 catcher, but I also think Tyler is going to be in there,” Ventura said. “He does a good job. I like to keep him fresh and keep A.J. as fresh as I can. I don’t want to wear him out and catch 40 days in a row.”
Flowers’ ultimate goal is still to be a starting catcher himself and sees his current role as part of the journey.
“It’s good to experience all sorts of things in the game,” Flowers said. “Obviously I wish I was on the other end of it, but that’s not the hand dealt to me right now. If and when I get that opportunity, I’ll remember what it was like to be on the other end.”