- Doug Padilla, ESPN Staff Writer
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OAKLAND, Calif. -- If Tyler Flowers’ opportunity to play Wednesday had big implications on his future, he wasn’t going to worry about it.
“No. I’ve played before,” he said when asked if he had butterflies or was anxious at all. “Just another game.
That might be a decent coping mechanism. The reality, though, is that every time Flowers can take the field, it’s a huge opportunity. He ended up 0-for-3 on Wednesday with a strikeout, although he did throw out Oakland’s Eric Sogard trying to steal a base.
Rated as one of the White Sox’s top prospects before the season began, things didn’t quote go exactly as planned at Triple-A Charlotte. He was named to the International League All-Star team, but his final offensive numbers were below expectations.
Flowers batted .220 (76-for-346) with 16 home runs and 53 RBIs in 100 Triple-A games, coming off a year in 2009 when he batted a combined .297 (105-for-353) in 108 games between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte. He then finished that season by going 3-for-16 (.188) in 10 games with the White Sox.
Under normal circumstances, the White Sox could ignore the low batting average, calling it an adjustment period to his first full season at Triple-A. They would then watch for improvement the following season at the same level.
The problem is that the White Sox might not have the luxury of letting Flowers develop one more year in the minor leagues.
With the contract of A.J. Piezynski expiring at the end of this season, Flowers might need to be in Chicago in April of 2011 instead of April 2012.
“I think right now we’re going to see him play,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “That’s why I’m giving him the opportunity now to see how he’ll do with it. Maybe I’ll start him two or three more times, that’s what I would like to do. Unless [GM] Kenny [Williams] comes down and says, ‘Listen, I need to see this kid.’ In the meanwhile, I have A.J. to finish up the season and I have [Ramon] Castro to finish up the season. If Kenny comes to me and says he wants to see [Flowers] more, well then I will do that.”
There is also a chance to get Flowers even more experience in winter ball, but a decision on that hasn’t been made. Until then, Floowers will absorb as much as he can over the final week and a half, even when he isn’t in the lineup.
“I try to take advantage of catching in the bullpen,” he said. “A lot of catching is just getting to know your pitchers and what their stuff does. You can pick up on a lot of habits in the bullpen even though they might not be going 100 percent and we’re not calling pitch sequences on Joe Mauer. But you can still pick up a lot of stuff if you pay attention to it. It’s been very productive so far.”
As for his swing, Flowers said he has already made some adjustments with hitting coach Greg Walker that he thinks can help if and when he gets regular playing time.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen and can’t control it, really,” Flowers said. “ I’ll just do the best I can when given the opportunity like today and hopefully they see some things I like and give me a chance.”
So how hard is it to wait on somebody else’s decision on where he will play next season?
“It’s not too bad,” he said. “There could be worse guys in front of me. [Pierzynski] is pretty good. It makes you feel good he’s a solid guy and been doing it for a while and can continue to do it. But we’ll see what the White Sox want to do with the situation.”
It’s obvious, though, that the White Sox want to see more. If Pierzynski doesn’t come back, Ramon Castro has a contract option for next season, or they could sign a veteran catcher like a Bengie Molina for one season and continue to let Flowers grow at the minor-league level.
“I cannot say he is ready to play in the big leagues or he’s not because it’s not fair for me or him to say what I think,” Guillen said. “Spring training is a different scenario, a different ballgame. There are so many people to look at. He will get some opportunity and hopefully he will open some eyes. In the meanwhile, is he going to play here every day? That’s not my call. We’ll give him an opportunity and see what happens.”
By the numbers
2: Runs scored by the White Sox with two outs in the ninth inning to give them a 4-3 victory over the A’s and end their season-long eight-game losing streak. The runs scored on an RBI single from pinch hitter Mark Kotsay and an RBI double from pinch hitter Mark Teahen. Both players lost playing time after the acquisition of Manny Ramirez, who has just one RBI in a White Sox uniform.
“Yeah, I want them back. You know why? First of all they play well for me, they played hard. Are they going to come back? I don’t make that decision, but I think A.J., [Paul Konerko], Freddy [Garcia] did a tremendous job for me this year. I don’t know exactly what kind of ballclub we’re going to have. But as a manager, after this year I want everyone back. Are they going to be back? I doubt it.” –Guillen, when asked what free agents he thinks need to be brought back next season.
Thursday is the last scheduled day off of the season. White Sox right-hander Freddy Garcia (11-6, 4.88), who has been out with a sore lower back, is scheduled to pitch Friday’s opener of a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels. Garcia will be opposed by Angels right-hander Joel Piniero (10-7, 4.13).