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Waiting for Paul Konerko, and planning around him

Tyler Flowers played some first against Toronto on June 6. Will the Blue Jays see it again?
Tyler Flowers played some first against Toronto on June 6. Will the Blue Jays see it again?

He gave us the gift of "REDDICKDUDNMOOOOOOOOOO," and then he was gone.

The White Sox optioned Jordan Danks to Charlotte after Sunday's game with the corresponding move coming today.. It's going to be a reliever, since the bullpen has been taxed the past week or so. Hector Santiago looks like the most likely candidate. He's rested, and he theoretically helps the Sox in a few different areas (left-handedness, throws multiple innings, has mid-leverage stuff).

But 13 pitchers doesn't make for the most efficient roster, especially since some guys -- Leyson Septimo stands out here -- haven't seen much work. The Sox really want to give Brett Myers, Jesse Crain and/or Matt Thornton two or three days off, but adding a Charlotte pitcher is almost like praying for a blowout in the form of a roster move.

That said, it may only be for a few days. Paul Konerko will undergo a concussion-related exam today, which will hopefully give the Sox a better idea whether he could be available by the end of the week. If he gets the green light, then it's merely a matter of a different 25th man for a four-day stretch.

But should Konerko be out for an extended amount of time, further roster improvisation will be required with position players. We've seen it already with Dayan Viciedo moving to designated hitter, as well as a two-catcher lineup that featured Tyler Flowers behind the plate and A.J. Pierzynski DHing. The latter option is one that seems worth exploring if the Sox are going to be without their first baseman longer than expected.

Managers don't like playing both catchers because it limits their options later in the game. If one catcher is at DH, then any late-game substitution will surrender the DH. And if the manager wants to pinch-run or pinch-hit for either catcher, then it puts the team in a bind if a foul tip knocks the one remaining catcher out of the game.

With Pierzynski, it seems like the concerns are minimized. The Sox never pinch-hit for him when it matters, so one rule doesn't apply. The other situations seem highly avoidable. Out of Pierzynski's 320 starts since 2010, there have been 24 he didn't see through to the end. The official tally of his early departures:

  • 11 exits for a pinch runner
  • 9 exits in a blowout
  • 2 exits due to injury
  • 1 exit due to ejection
  • 1 exit to a standing ovation on the final day of the season

Basically, when Pierzynski starts a game, it's more than 99 percent likely he's going to finish it unless the manager decides otherwise. Ventura says starting two catchers is "rolling the dice a little bit," but the dice are loaded in his favor.

The complications are minimized further if Flowers starts at first base instead of DHing, so the Sox can make a late-game substitution without making the pitcher hit. That's not a particularly wild idea, since Ventura has already started him at first once this year, and he had plenty of reps in the minors.

The offense is what makes Flowers at first unpalatable, but even that is coming along. He's hitting .314/.351/.486 in 10 starts (35 AB) after the All-Star break, including a perfect day at the plate against Oakland.

That 3-for-3 performance also widened his splits further:

  • vs. RHP: .150/.250/.200 in 68 PA
  • vs. LHP: .333/.351/.659 in 37 PA

Flowers came up in the minors obliterating left-handed pitching, but the split had been reduced in the previous two seasons. If he's back to his old form in that respect, that skill could be useful in spelling Adam Dunn, who is hitting just .189/.279/.387 since the break.

Or this could be a dumb idea, because chasing small-sample-size success is usually an act of desperation. But without Konerko -- or maybe even with him, if Dunn can't get straightened out -- the Sox are going to have to scramble a little bit.

If seat-of-pants roster construction is the order of the day, I'd like to see it result in a little more playing time for Flowers when the matchup is right. He is thisclose to being quite a useful bench player thanks to all the progress he made defensively, so there's reason to pursue it, even if it is a mirage. And when he surprises by, say, pulling out an opposite-field swing we'd never seen before, it piques my interest. At least more than Dewayne Wise does.

Flowers might play winter ball after the season just to get regular at-bats back into his life, but there may be some in store for him this season if Ventura has to resort to hot hands. If Flowers is the hottest, I'd hope that Ventura would be open to a two-catcher lineup until the lack of flexibility actually burns him.