Take care of the pitching staff, play good defense behind the plate and put the bat on the baseball from time to time.
Those are the three items on Tyler Flowers’ to-do list this season, his first as the White Sox’ starting catcher.
For the most part, Flowers has earned passing marks on the first two objectives, but his offensive production all but disappeared following a promising start highlighted by solo home runs in each of the Sox’ first two games.
Riding a 2-for-28 slump made even bumpier by 14 strikeouts, Flowers was not in the starting lineup against the Blue Jays on Tuesday night.
But the 27-year-old catcher did have a productive day off.
Flowers told reporters in Toronto he worked on his swing in the batting cage at Rogers Centre and opened up his stance a bit.
Flowers was back on the field Wednesday, and the adjustments were evident.
His 3-run homer off Jays starter J.A. Happ in the second inning gave the White Sox some early breathing room and they cruised to a 7-0 win over Toronto.
Flowers (2-for-4) also singled in the seventh inning, raising his batting average from .162 to .195.
That’s still not good enough to make Sox fans forget about A.J. Pierzynski, but Flowers has apparently found a comfort zone.
“I didn’t feel fooled on pitches, which was good,” Flowers told reporters after the White Sox won their second straight over the Blue Jays while improving to 3-6 on the first road trip of the season. “It just felt a little more smooth, like I had a little more freedom, a little more kind of swagger, looseness feeling on all my swings today. It felt very good.”
The rest of the Sox’ offense appeared to ride on Flowers’ good vibe.
Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo had 2 hits apiece, and Alex Rios hit his fifth home run of the season, a 438-foot solo shot off Happ in the sixth inning.
“Coming through like that was big for (Flowers),” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “You go through a stretch like that and it’s not necessarily trying to get a hit but help your team win. And when you hit a home run like that, it’s a big relief because you know you’re helping out.”
Sox lefty Jose Quintana didn’t get any help in his last start, a 1-0 loss at Cleveland on Friday.
The offense stepped up against the Blue Jays, and Quintana (1-0) delivered another solid outing while scattering 5 hits over 6 innings.
Over his last 2 starts, Quintana has pitched 13 shutout innings, allowing just 6 hits and striking out 14.
“I felt really good with the command of my fastball since the first inning,” Quintana told reporters following Wednesday’s start. “That allowed me to expand (the strike zone) a little bit and use the other pitches as well. The command of the fastball allowed me to do everything else.”
Before the game, the Sox brought up outfielder Jordan Danks from Class AAA after sending down relief pitcher Duente Heath. Danks replaced center fielder Alejandro De Aza in the bottom of the eighth inning and singled in the ninth.
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