Flowers Could Upgrade White Sox Attack
CHICAGO—As a headliner in a major offseason trade, Tyler Flowers generated a lot of headlines before his first trip to White Sox camp. He returns as more of a known quantity in 2010, with the Sox intent on polishing a few rough edges before considering him for Ozzie Guillen's roster.
With A.J. Pierzynski returning for his sixth season and Ramon Castro having been re-signed as the likely backup, the 24-year-old Flowers was likely to return to Triple-A Charlotte, where he ended last season.
But the White Sox are looking to upgrade an offense that outscored only the Royals and Athletics among their American League competition and Flowers is considered the farm system's top hitter. Could he force his way into the picture sooner rather than later?
Acquired in the trade that sent Javier Vazquez to the Braves, Flowers combined to hit .297/.423/.516 in 108 games between Double-A Birmingham and Charlotte last season. He has the power to thrive at U.S. Cellular Field, a home run hitter's park, and the patience and pitch recognition to work counts and draw walks.
"In the big leagues, he's just gonna get better," Birmingham manager Ever Magallanes said. "It's a power swing. He puts on a show in BP. Obviously, there are some things he has to work on, but if he squares it up, they go a long way."
The White Sox believe Flowers will develop into a big league regular as a catcher, but he's far from a finished product. His size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) limits his agility behind the plate, but Magallanes is impressed with Flowers' approach. He said he worked well with his pitching staff and coaches while also improving his pitch-blocking and footwork on throws last season.
The Sox don't want to hurt Flowers' development, and Guillen says it's unlikely he'd carry a third catcher.
But could he really overlook the imposing Flowers if he is one of the team's top hitters in the spring?
• Lefthander Erick Threets, signed to a minor league contract, impressed pitching coach Don Cooper at a January minicamp. He'll compete with Randy Williams for a job as the second lefthander in the bullpen.
• Among the other pitchers at that minicamp, righthander Nate Jones also impressed. Jones, who has a plus curve and fastball that touches the high 90s, could move quickly as a reliever but will be considered as a starter with Double-A Birmingham.