CHICAGO -- Tyler Flowers tried to put the pressure of replacing A.J. Pierzynski behind him last fall. The Chicago White Sox's new starting catcher stopped reading the papers and internet as he tried his best to avoid negative feedback.
“My big goal for the year is to stay away from that,” Flowers said. “I want to stay in the moment and keep a positive frame of mind. I worry about only what I can control, that is it.”
Flowers did just that in the fifth inning when he hit the eventual game-winning solo home run off of James Shields to break a scoreless tie. Even more important than the homer, Flowers nursed starter Chris Sale and three relief pitchers through nine shutout innings.
“He is his own person,” Opening Day winner Sale said. “We don’t need another A.J. Pierzynski here. We need Tyler Flowers. I think he has done a great job of not letting all the hoopla get to him about being better than (A.J.) He is just going about his business the right way and we saw a pretty good game from him.”
You can make the argument that aside from general team health, Flowers’ work behind the plate will be the focal point of the season. The Sox are expected to compete for a playoff berth with Flowers navigating the pitching staff, and like it or not, Flowers replacing Pierzynski will be a story line media and fans follow all season.
“I did listen to people about it at one time,” Flowers said. “I am human like anybody else and you are prone to getting your feelings hurt. If you let that (negativity) in those are the times you don’t usually do very well. You begin to lose confidence. So I stay away from it and stay in the moment.”
On defense the White Sox are expecting solid improvement in communication and overall skills with Flowers behind the plate. The pitching staff had begun to lose confidence in Pierzynski’s ability to block low pitches or balls in the dirt.
“He is a different kind of player than A.J.,” team captain Paul Konerko said. “Both are catchers but the way they hit and catch are different. The key for him is not to try and replace A.J. but to be himself.”
Flowers, who had trouble making contact last season when he hit .213 with 56 strikeouts in 136 at-bats, was the hero on Monday, hitting a high changeup from Shields out of the park for the only run of the game.
“I am human so there will be moments when I start doubting things,” Flowers said. “At this point of my career I can’t live up to what A.J. Pierzynski did here. I have to do my own thing and put my best effort forward every day.”