A.J. Pierzynski and Tyler Flowers have smoothed out relationship
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Getting on A.J. Pierzynski's good side, or keeping him off your bad side, is a challenge.
Pierzynski's knack for getting under the skin of opposing players is legendary, but he often spars with his own teammates and coaches.
Just ask Jake Peavy, former hitting coach Greg Walker and former manager Ozzie Guillen.
Pierzynski's favorite targets for abuse are young teammates, so you can imagine how Tyler Flowers feels.
Not only is he trying to establish himself as a major-leaguer, he plays the same position as Pierzynski.
"Yeah, we started a little rough," Flowers said.
The two catchers smoothed things out a bit in the off-season and actually joined forces on "Call of Duty," an online video game.
"He can't handle me in the video games," Flowers jabbed. "He's too old for that."
"Yeah, I also have kids," Pierzynski countered. "So I don't have as much time as he does to sit there and play them all the time."
Pierzynski and Flowers are on opposite sides of the White Sox' spring clubhouse at Camelback Ranch, seemingly a good thing.
In reality, they get along about as well as can be expected and are currently joined together as the Sox' top two catchers.
Down the road, Pierzynski is going to be sitting in front of TV cameras analyzing baseball.
Pierzynski is a natural, as he showed on FOX during the World Series. He has a good sense of humor and a unique insight that comes with playing a demanding position for 11 seasons.
Entering the final year of his contract, Pierzynski wants to continue playing baseball beyond this season, preferably with the White Sox.
Hey, he's not dumb.
"As long as my family will let me play and my wife and kids still support me, I don't know why I wouldn't want to play," Pierzynski said. "As long as somebody will pay you the money they're paying guys to keep playing, it's tough to find that money out in the other world."
Now 35, Pierzynski is edging closer and closer to that other world.
He can still hit, but Pierzynski's defensive skills have slipped and he landed on the disabled list for the first time in his career last season, even though it was a freak injury.
On Aug. 12, Kansas City starter Bruce Chen came way inside with a pitch and Pierzynski went down with a fractured left wrist.
Backup Ramon Castro was also on the DL with a broken right hand and finger, so Flowers finally got a chance to play.
"It was great to play every day for a stretch, it definitely took some pressure off me," Flowers said. "Playing once a week is like '(Bleep), I got to get a hit today.' So it was great to have that stretch of playing consistency. It was great to somewhat solidify yourself that you can handle the position."
Flowers batted over .300 while filling in for Pierzynski. When Pierzynski healed and returned to the roster, Flowers went into a funk and batted .153 over his final 25 games.
He is clearly not a finished product, but Flowers can hit for power (5 home runs in 38 games for the White Sox last season) and has a better throwing arm than Pierzynski.
For the first time in four years, Flowers is a lock to break camp with the Sox.
"It's a good thing, but nothing is guaranteed," Flowers said. "If I come out here and don't perform like I'm capable of and should, then I probably won't make the team. But I'm confident, feeling healthy and feeling like I'm going to contribute to the White Sox and break camp with the team."
As for Pierzynski, he heads into the season as the Sox' No. 1 catcher.
Flowers or no Flowers, Pierzynski plans on logging extensive playing time again, assuming he's productive.
"I don't think I have much left to prove," Pierzynski said. "I've proven what I needed to prove in this game. 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. It's always been like that since the first day you step foot in this field."