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Friday, February 17, 2012
White Sox spring preview: Catchers

By Doug Padilla

Tyler Flowers
Tyler Flowers figures to split catching duties with A.J. Pierzynski this season.
With spring training fast approaching, Doug Padilla previews the White Sox roster by position this week.

This is the season the catching torch gets passed from A.J. Pierzynski to Tyler Flowers for the Chicago White Sox, but does that transition take place sooner rather than later?

Flowers is expected to be Pierzynski’s backup to start the season, but in order to not stunt his development he is going to need plenty of at-bats. That means Pierzynski is going to have to take a seat more often than he has in the past.

Pierzynski’s baseball-best run of 10 consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 innings caught would appear to be in jeopardy.

While always maintaining his loyalty to the White Sox, Pierzynski could still find himself playing elsewhere before the season is done. He has the right to veto any trade, but there are indications that he would waive that if the White Sox struggled and he had the opportunity to play for a contending team.

One of the last two links to the White Sox’s 2005 World Series championship team along with Paul Konerko, Pierzynski showed last season that he still has more quality baseball left in him. He did a solid job guiding White Sox starters like Mark Buehrle and Phil Humber. But John Danks had a hard time emerging from an early funk and Jake Peavy didn’t look comfortable in his return from injury.

Flowers was supposed to open the 2011 season as the White Sox’s starting catcher but didn’t prove himself in time, leading the White Sox to re-sign Pierzynski. Usually durable, it was Pierzynski’s stint on the disabled list in 2011 that gave Flowers the chance to play and the young catcher made the most of it.

BEST-CASE SCENARIO IN 2012: Some slightly reduced playing time gives Pierzynski fresher legs and he’s able to turn back the clock a few years. Flowers, meanwhile, settles into a groove of playing two or three times a week and gives some sporadic power at the bottom of the order.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO IN 2012: Pierzynski doesn’t figure to be keen on not playing as much and if he lets that affect his play the White Sox will be worse off because of it. It’s also not going to be easy on Flowers to ask him to play only a few days a week and still stay sharp. The situation looks ripe for Pierzynski to get traded at midseason to a contender in need of catching help.

KID TO WATCH: Josh Phegley, who reached Triple-A last season (for 22 games anyway), could stand to catch a break after recent health problems slowed him down. A condition two seasons ago that left him with a low blood-platelet count has been overcome as he now works on returning to being the player so highly thought of when he was the 38th overall selection in the 2009 draft.