White Sox catchers bond over Call of Duty
Chicago White Sox catchers A.J. Pierzynski and Tyler Flowers played the video game "Call of Duty" together online in the offseason.
Courtesy of Activision
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Chicago White Sox catchers A.J. Pierzynski and Tyler Flowers spent time in the offseason getting to know each other.
Not by chatting over a burger and a beer, though. They hooked up online playing the video war game "Call of Duty."
"We're bonded. We're all right," Flowers said.
Pierzynski and the White Sox might see more of Flowers on the field, too. The 26-year-old backup could log more innings behind the plate to spell Pierzynski, who is entering his 15th major league season.
Pierzynski, 35, has caught more than 1,000 innings for 10 consecutive seasons.
Enter Flowers as the heir apparent. He filled in for Pierzynski after the two-time All-Star broke his left wrist last August, the first time he had gone on the disabled list in his big league career.
Flowers hit .209 last season but showed power with five home runs in 38 games for Chicago. He hit .152 in the final month, but drew praise from teammates for his defense and the way he handled pitchers.
The opportunity to play every day during Pierzynski's absence gave Flowers confidence.
"It takes the pressure off a little bit," Flowers said in spring training at Camelback Ranch. "Playing once a week it's, `I've got to get a hit today.' So, it was great to get that stretch of playing consistently. The confidence is always high, but it's nice to somewhat solidify yourself a little bit that you can handle the position."
Flowers, acquired in a 2008 trade with Atlanta, acknowledged he entered this spring with a better chance to make the team than last year.
"Nothing's guaranteed, though," he said. "If I don't perform like I'm capable of and should, I probably won't make the team. I'm feeling really confident and healthy, feeling like I'm definitely going to contribute and break camp with the team."
As for Pierzynski, a 14-year major league veteran, he said he's as healthy as can be. He took batting practice in the offseason for the first time in at least five years to test his wrist, which was fractured when he was hit by a pitch Aug. 12. He came off the disabled list Sept. 2 and finished the season batting .287 in 129 games. Despite the trip to the DL, he still caught 1,008 innings.
Pierzynski also threw batting practice and hit fungos at his old high school, Dr. Phillips in Orlando, Fla., this winter. He said he'll keep playing baseball as long as he can, as long as it's fun to come to the ballpark.
"I've proven what I needed to prove in this game," he said. "I'll continue to go out and do what I can this year and hopefully play a lot. I'll play when they tell me to play. That's all I can do. If I'm doing well, I'll play. If I'm not, they'll find somebody else."
Flowers said his relationship with the veteran started off as "a little rough," but they've bonded and talked during the offseason.
Flowers expressed his respect for Pierzynski.
"The guy works his tail off," Flowers said. "I need to pick up and learn some stuff from him and hopefully duplicate what he's done with his career."
First-time manager Robin Ventura said Flowers will likely serve as Pierzynski's backup.
"I think Tyler is obviously that guy," Ventura said. "He deserves it from last year. But we're going to go through the spring and see how it works out."
Notes: Philip Humber is scheduled to start the first spring training game Monday against the Dodgers. The rest of the rotation is John Danks, Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd and Chris Sale. Danks could start the season opener April 6. ... Ventura said Peavy and pitcher Nestor Molina, acquired from Toronto in the Sergio Santos trade, have looked good. Ventura said it would be "a tough call" on whether Molina breaks camp with the team or goes to the minors. Peavy has bounced back from an eye infection early in camp.
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