PHOENIX -- After a disastrous 2013 season that painfully ended with shoulder surgery, the last thing Tyler Flowers was thinking about was being named the White Sox' No. 1 catcher this year.
"It was kind of questionable in my mind for a little bit during the off-season, can I be ready for the season?" Flowers said. "Not to be a starter or anything, but can I be ready just to play? I guess I'm proud of myself in that respect but it's still a long road. I have to continue to take care of the shoulder and everything to make sure it doesn't become an issue down the road."
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While he remains on an exercise program designed to keep his right shoulder strong, Flowers is preparing for his second straight season as the Sox' starting catcher. "As of right now, unless something drastically changes," manager Robin Ventura said Sunday when asked if Flowers is his top catcher.
More than a few White Sox fans saw enough of Flowers last season to demand a drastic change.
In 84 games, Flowers had an anemic .195/.247/.355 hitting line along with 10 home runs and 24 RBI. He is back this year on a $950,000 contract and is batting .231 with 1 homer and 3 RBI in the Cactus League.
Flowers has made a positive adjustment to new hitting coach Todd Steverson.
"We've kept it real simple, which was really part of my request coming into it and it just so happens that's the same philosophy he seems to have," Flowers said. "We're just keeping it as simple as we can, trying to have a good approach, staying up the middle, all that kind of stuff.
"I'm very comfortable with what I'm doing in my set-up and everything. He's kind of helped me to simplify that and make sure I'm in as good a position as I can be to have success each and every day."
Felipe Paulino all but sealed a spot in the Sox' starting rotation Monday with 5 scoreless innings against Milwaukee.
The right-hander said he threw six cutters against the Brewers after adding the new pitch in his last bullpen session. He tipped his cap to pitching coach Don Cooper.
"That's what I like with Cooper," said Paulino, who signed a one-year, $1.75 million contract with the White Sox on Dec. 9. "He cares a lot. He gives me that confidence. Cooper gives (the cutter) to me, to let me throw it in the game. I'm glad with how it's coming.
"But it's a long season; I want to see how it responds every time. It's something I can add when something is not working. In the end, the good thing about this is I improve. And I feel like everything is coming together."
During a media session at U.S. Cellular Field on Monday, head groundskeeper Roger Bossard said it's going to be a challenge to be ready for the March 31 season opener against the Twins due to the harshest winter in memory.
"I've been in this for over 45 years and I have seen a lot of snow and certainly that is not hard to handle," Bossard told reporters. "This weekend I had my whole crew in and they took off 400 tons (of snow). My problem is the permafrost. I have actually never run into 30 inches of permafrost."
Despite the poor conditions, Bossard said the field should be ready for the opener, as well as a workout on March 30.