Sox think Flowers could grow into star




CHICAGO—Ozzie Guillen says U.S. Cellular Field is "a small ballpark in the summer," and the figures back him up. Since Jerry Reinsdorf brought the fences in for the 2000 season, the White Sox's home park has ranked among the most home run-friendly stadiums in the big leagues.

That's partly why general manager Ken Williams is so happy with two of his offseason acquisitions—22-year-old catcher Tyler Flowers and 19-year-old third baseman Dayan Viciedo.

"Taking batting practice, you see this young man, along with Mr. Flowers, you're just not talking about the average bear," Williams said about Viciedo, a Cuban defector signed to a four-year, $10 million contract. "It's going to be fun to watch."

Flowers, the top prospect in the six-player deal that sent Javier Vazquez and left Boone Logan to Atlanta on Dec. 2, and Viciedo are part of an impressive restocking of power hitters in the Sox organization. Williams also acquired shortstop Brent Lillibridge, third baseman Jon Gilmore and lefthander Santos Rodriguez in the Vazquez deal. But it was Flowers whom Williams fell head over heels for during the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .387/.460/.973 with 12 homers and 18 extra-base hits in 20 games.

Primarily a first baseman in his first two minor league seasons, Flowers is considered a defensive question mark by some scouts but Williams says moving him to first base down the road "is the furthest thing on our minds right now."

Williams believes Flowers will have a long run as the White Sox's regular catcher, succeeding A.J. Pierzynski, who is signed for two more seasons.

"I think (Flowers) is going to be an all-star catcher," Williams said. "If you didn't know he was a position-change guy, you wouldn't know. For a guy his size, he has a lot of agility behind the plate. He was throwing the ball extremely well (in the Fall League) . . . I think this guy will be a heck of an offensive catcher, and solid behind the plate."

Viciedo, an all-star in Cuba's Serie Nacional at age 16, reportedly has 40-homer power. Conditioning has been a problem in recent years. He reportedly weighed 262 pounds at one point this fall and is under orders to report to camp at 230, partially because Williams wants to look at him in the outfield as well as at third base.

CHI-LITES

• The White Sox lost sidearming righthander Derek Rodriguez to Tampa Bay in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft. Shortstop Robert Valido and outfielder Ricardo Nanita, were selected by the Orioles and Nationals, respectively, in the Triple-A phase.

• The Sox signed catchers Chris Stewart and Corky Miller to minor league contracts, and expect them to challenge Cole Armstrong for a job as Pierzynski's backup. They also signed righthander John Van BenSchoten, outfielder Josh Kroeger and second baseman Eider Torres to minor league contracts.