As Rick Hahn reiterated Friday night at SoxFest, when the club acquired Tyler Flowers after the 2008 season, some White Sox scouts felt he was ready to hit in the big leagues right then. And the White Sox weren't the only ones who thought that. But A.J. Pierzynski blocked him (maybe the best blocking A.J. did as a White Sox catcher -- rim shot!). And kept blocking him.
This did, however, provide Flowers with the opportunity to learn from Pierzynski, and the 27-year-old catcher says he primarily took note of the veteran's work ethic. But as we have discussed multiple times on this site, the two seem to have somewhat different approaches to pitch-calling.
Flowers didn't disagree, but mainly because of the difference in experience. He noted that Pierzynski had played against the teams and many of the players before. Flowers hadn't, so he started his preparation with the proverbial Book the White Sox have on opposing hitters/teams.
When asked about throwing inside, Flowers launched into a detailed explanation of why pitching inside is essential for success. He pointed out the obvious: that the inside pitch is tough to hit. But its place in a pitch sequence or in an overall gameplan is important because it "messes with hitters." If a pitcher can be effective throwing inside, that can really "get into the heads of opposing batters" and "changes everything" a pitcher can do on the mound, opening up possibilities and weaknesses to exploit.
Flowers mentioned how he "likes to go high late in counts" and that is something that he felt was a difference between himself and Pierzynski. He jokingly added that "maybe it's because I can't hit it and A.J. can."
For their part, White Sox pitchers seem to be fine with Flowers behind the plate. Gavin Floyd noted that the staff had plenty of opportunities to throw to both Pierzynski and Flowers last season. He praised Flowers as a catcher who is "smart and thinks outside the box."
Flowers also talked about the other side of inside pitches -- facing them as a hitter. I asked him about the wrist he injured late in the season against the Indians (it's fine and he's been cleared to play for awhile), and whether the White Sox were aware of the Indians perhaps throwing inside more than other teams. He responded with, "We are now."
But he brushed off any notion that the Indians have intentionally sought to hurt either himself or Gordon Beckham and Brent Lillibridge (the other recent victims of hand injuries from Indians HBPs). He felt it was coincidence, and they were merely three pitches that just got away from Indians pitchers. "When you throw 96 mph [like Chris Perez does], it's going to happen sometimes."