Teammates, brass expect Tyler Flowers to bloom
On Dec. 5, 2008, then White Sox general manager Kenny Williams acquired Tyler Flowers in a six-player trade with the Atlanta Braves.
One week later, he signed Dayan Viciedo to a four-year contract.
"When you see Viciedo, along with Flowers, you're not talking about your average bears," Williams said at the time. "It's going be fun to watch."
It took some time, but Viciedo finally broke into the Sox' starting lineup last season and the left fielder responded with 25 home runs and 78 RBI.
This year, Flowers gets his shot to show what he can do.
A.J. Pierzynski's eight-year run with the White Sox is over, and the workhorse catcher is now playing for the Rangers.
The Sox could have brought the free agent back for another year or two, especially considering Pierzynski hit a career-high 27 home runs last season at the age of 35.
But new GM Rick Hahn felt Flowers paid his dues the past four seasons while watching Pierzynski catch game after game.
"Based on the history we have with (Flowers), I think he'll be a quality everyday catcher in the big leagues," Hahn said after replacing Williams as GM in October. "I think it's tough for a kid, especially for a young kid, to have sporadic playing time as he did this past year and continue that development.
"Defensively, he can certainly handle the position. I think he's going to get on base some, and he's going to have some power. He can be a valuable and viable every day catcher in the big leagues."
Defensively, Flowers has a better throwing arm than Pierzynski, and he erased 30 percent (12 of 40) of attempted basestealers last season. Pierzynski had a success rate of 20 percent (19 of 95), his best showing since 2005.
But having played just 108 games with the White Sox from 2009-12, Flowers still has to prove he can effectively call pitches and learn the tendencies of opposing hitters.
In his limited time behind the plate, Sox pitchers have raved about Flowers' decision-making and defensive prowess.
"That's the ultimate compliment right there," Flowers said. "That's better than hitting .300 or hitting 50 homers. That's something I took to heart 5-6 years ago. Having the confidence of my pitchers, it's a long road to get there and there's a lot more I can do to get better. That motivates me even more to continue to progress."
As a hitter, Flowers has a .205 career average along with 107 strikeouts in 273 at-bats.
When he connects, the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder hits the baseball a long ways.
Over the winter, Flowers videotaped his hitting sessions from his home outside Atlanta and sent them to hitting coach Jeff Manto and his new assistant, Harold Baines.
Flowers also hit in front of Manto and Baines at U.S. Cellular Field before SoxFest last month.
"It went great," Manto said. "Bainsey and I had a chance to spend some time with him to make sure he was aware of his backside. That's what we're most concerned with, his collapsing. He did a great job making the adjustments all winter long."
Hector Gimenez reported to spring training in Glendale, Ariz., last week as the White Sox' backup catcher.
A switch hitter, the 30-year-old Gimenez played two games with the Astros in 2006, four games with the Dodgers in 2011 and he was 5-for-11 with 1 RBI in five games with the Sox last season.
Josh Phegley is the top catching prospect in the minor leagues. He batted .266 with 6 homers and 48 RBI in 102 games with Class AAA Charlotte last year.