As the Opening Day lineups are announced throughout ballparks all across America on Monday, cheers will follow after every player’s name is heard over the loudspeakers. This usually occurs because of the fans’ sincere optimism that every player on their favorite team will have a career year or because they do not know much about the players statistically, so they just cheer for all of them.
On the South Side of Chicago, there are bound to be a few boos coming from the stands when Chicago White Sox starting catcher Tyler Flowers is announced.
With the exception of Adam Dunn, Flowers is the player that fans taunt the most. The White Sox backstop frustrates fans because of his inability to make consistent contact at the plate, which is reflected on the back of his baseball card. Last year, it seemed like whenever Flowers was up with others on base, he would chase a pitch high in the zone.
Flowers’ slash of .195/.247/.355 is comical to put it lightly, and he does not provide much offensively. Expected to be an adequate enough hitter that he could provide some offensive production, the former Atlanta Braves farmhand was supposed to have White Sox fans forget that A.J. Pierzynski was not a part of the team’s 2013 plans.
Flowers’ transition into the starting catcher’s role was intended to be a smooth one as the Sox competed for a playoff spot. As most know, the Sox fell out of contention early and could never put the pieces together to make a run. While that was happening, Flowers struggled offensively and defensively. At one point, it got so unbearable that the Sox called up Josh Phegley to start over Flowers.
Phegley struggled as well, only hitting .206/.223/.299 which gave him another opportunity to prove himself. Unfortunately, Flowers continued to fail to put it together. As the season concluded, White Sox fans breathed a sigh of relief as they heard that there was a possibility that Flowers would not be back in Chicago for 2014.
Then, GM Rick Hahn gave Flowers a one-year contract, ensuring that he will get one more chance to become a staple in the Sox lineup. Going into this year, Flowers finds himself on a shorter leash than years past. Gone are the days when he was the only young catching option in the White Sox organization.
Entering the season, Adrian Nieto will be the backup catcher behind Flowers. Nieto officially made the jump from the Carolina League to the majors, which shows how much faith the organization has in him. Scouts rave about Nieto’s ability to hit from both sides of the plate while also being able to handle a pitching staff.
With Nieto having to be sent back to the Washington Nationals if he does not remain on the big league roster, he will have plenty of opportunities to prove himself. This translates into Flowers’ plate appearances being reduced. If Nieto is able to prove that he can be given the keys to be the starting catcher of the future, Flowers’ days with the Sox will be numbered.
Now more than ever, Flowers must find a way to put it all together. At the age of 28, which is the equivalent of 48 in baseball years, Flowers is in jeopardy of being nothing more than a backup in the future. Hopefully for him and the Sox, he can quickly turn those Opening Day boos into rousing cheers.