When Tyler Flowers came to spring training last season, he basically needed to put on a show. In his four other auditions for Ozzie Guillen and the other White Sox coaches -- two springs and two September promotions -- he hit .169/.310/.254, with 25 strikeouts in 71 plate appearances.
He finally reached his potential in front of key witnesses during March of 2011, going 10-for-21 with only six strikeouts over 24 plate appearances. It made a positive impression upon Guillen, and those good vibes lasted the entire year.
Judging by results alone, he's using this spring to show everybody just how lucky he was. He's back to the same old song -- 2-for-14, no walks, eight strikeouts, and he thinks he knows why:
"Apparently I haven’t found the thing that’s working for me yet, but there still are a few weeks left," Flowers said. "There's time to do extra stuff. We're simplifying it as much as we can. I'm probably not playing as much as I'd like to, so I got to make it as simple as I can to have a change in there. But I think we're getting closer." [...]
Flowers said his timing is off and is trying to get his front foot in better position to make contact.
There's no particular reason for concern, because Flowers is always going to strikeout in clumps. He has a complicated swing with many moving parts, and it's going to be a perpetual struggle for him to keep his mechanics as efficient as possible. We saw him become unraveled during several games last year. Really, he should just try bunting against Jered Weaver next time.
Flowers found ways to right the ship well enough, but the way his swing gets unhinged for a game or four at a time makes him prone to really ugly small samples. It makes sense that he would struggle even more at the start of seasons while gets his limbs on the same page with his butt, but it underscores the unlikelihood of his spring renaissance last year. This spring would be taking on a whole new meaning otherwise ... if he were even still with the Sox.
Speaking of perpetual struggles, it's proving equally difficult for editors to avoid Flowers puns in headlines. If you can overlook that part, Daryl Van Schouwen took a different angle with his Flowers story by playing up two of his key baseball relationships.
In his corner, Jake Peavy, for whom Flowers might serve as a personal catcher:
Pitchers have catchers they prefer, and it works both ways. Flowers likes catching Peavy for more reasons than friendship.
‘‘From my perspective, it’s like hitting: You see the ball better from certain pitchers,’’ Flowers said. ‘‘He’s one of those guys [where] I recognize the pitches out of his hand. I can kind of tell if it’s going to be in the dirt and block it or if it’s going to be a strike or borderline. That gives me comfort.
‘‘On the other end, he likes what I do behind the plate receiving and blocking and making him comfortable. . . . Our relationship is pretty good, too, and I’m getting a better understanding of how he likes to pitch, so we’re not shaking off pitches all the time. It’s all a work in progress, but that helps the relationship."
And on the opposite side of the ring, A.J. Pierzynski:
‘‘Our relationship? We’re not best friends, but we talk to each other,’’ Flowers said. ‘‘It’s fine. It works.’’
In defense of Pierzynski, I'd look at Flowers with a cautious eye, too. Between catching Peavy during his various rehab starts in Charlotte, getting a major-league job after Ramon Castro broke his finger, and then getting a chance to start after Pierzynski broke his wrist, he has fueled his entire MLB career by using the misery of others. The other 23 White Sox would be well advised to remain equally vigilant.