Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Sox spring training preview: Catchers
By Doug Padilla
The White Sox are counting on Tyler Flowers being ready to be an everyday catcher.
Doug Padilla previews the White Sox by position in the days leading up to pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training on Tuesday.
The A.J. Pierzynski departure has become somewhat of a hot button issue around the Chicago White Sox front offices so much so that his name is even mentioned even when nobody is asking.
The money the White Sox saved by letting A.J. Pierzynski go helped them upgrade other key areas of the roster.
Take a packed seminar at SoxFest last month when a fan approached the microphone to ask a question of a panel that included manager Robin Ventura and general manager Rick Hahn. Before the fan even asked his question he apologized just in case it wouldn't be received well.
Without hesitation, Hahn asked if the question might have something to do with a certain veteran catcher who is now property of the Texas Rangers.
The beauty of the situation is that the question had nothing to do with Pierzynski at all. But that is how it has been for the White Sox, whose fan base has wondered aloud why a fan favorite, in-your-face, gritty leader was seemingly sent on his way so easily.
All winter long the White Sox have been explaining the move. Even before Pierzynski signed elsewhere the White Sox were saying they continued to respect the effort he gave and were grateful of his time in a White Sox uniform.
Also, the move to part ways was done in part to help other areas of the roster. One way to evaluate Pierzynski's one-year, $7.5 million deal with the Rangers is to look at how the White Sox spread that savings around.
In the upcoming season, the White Sox will pay Jeff Keppinger $3.5 million to play third base and hard-throwing reliever Matt Lindstrom $2.3 million to provide support in the late innings. Add in the salary of club-controlled Tyler Flowers and the trio will still make less than the 36-year-old Pierzynski will take home.
Tyler Flowers: The difficulty of replacing Pierzynski is not lost on Flowers, who still might be a little na´ve in thinking all fans will simply judge him on his own merits. Flowers has already pointed out that his batting average and strikeout totals won't match Pierzynski's but that doesn't mean he won't be pulling his weight. The White Sox are completely confident in Flowers' ability to call a game and his ability to handle the running game will no doubt be better than what his predecessor showed. The idea is that with a full season of at-bats, Flowers can also show the kind of offensive production that was expected of him when he was acquired from the Atlanta Braves after the 2008 season.
Hector Gimenez: Despite playing in just 11 career major league games with three different teams, the White Sox are ready to give the backup catching job to Gimenez. The team is comfortable with the 30-year-old's ability to call a game and like that his ability to switch hit gives Ventura a left-handed bat when Flowers needs a rest. Giminez has shown offensive prowess, delivering a .305 batting average and a .916 OPS at the Double-A level in 2010, but producing in a part-time role will be an entirely new challenge.
Josh Phegley: After getting past a condition that caused excessive bruising and the potential for an increased risk of severe bleeding, the former 38th overall pick in the 2009 draft appears to be back on track. It seems, though, that the White Sox would rather have him continue his development with another full season of playing time at Triple-A Charlotte, unless an injury at the big-league level changes those plans.