The 28-year-old catcher from east Cobb finally got substantial playing time for the Chicago White Sox after A.J. Pierzynski left and signed with Texas. But Flowers hit just .195 with 10 homers in 84 games, and his season was cut short by a right shoulder injury that required surgery in September.
It didn’t help that Chicago skidded to a 63-99 record, the poorest for the White Sox since 1970.
“I’m not thinking about it,” Flowers said. “We recognize some areas that hurt us as a team and personally, and improve on those.”
Flowers is competing for playing time with Josh Phegley, who hit .316 at Triple-A Charlotte last year but just .206 in 204 at-bats with the White Sox. In addition, Adrian Nieto is at spring training after Chicago selected him from Washington in the winter meetings draft.
Manager Robin Ventura thinks Flowers is his best option entering Chicago’s exhibition season, which starts Friday against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“Last year there were times that for him, it really wore on him. The offense wasn’t there,” Ventura said. “But he calls a great game.”
Flowers will be catching a rotation that includes holdovers Chris Sale, John Danks and Jose Quintana.
“I guess there might be an art to it, but I feel like I do a good job of reading what hitters are doing,” Flowers said. “My offense is going to be a lot better, but the focus is to help our pitchers keep us in the ballgame, get them deeper in games and do my job behind the plate.”
Ventura agrees, while stopping just short of saying the starting catcher’s job is Flowers’ to lose.
“We know what we get with Tyler,” he said. “I think if we scored more runs throughout our lineup it wouldn’t have been as big of an issue, him putting pressure on himself. You don’t feel like it’s just on you.”
The 24-year-old Nieto hit .285 with 11 homers last year at Class A Potomac. If Chicago doesn’t keep him on the major league roster, he would have to be offered back to the Nationals.
Phegley, a first-round draft pick in 2009, homered three times in his first eight games with the White Sox but the 26-year-old hit just one in August and none in September.
“I feel like I lost confidence,” he said. “I took this offseason to step back and say, ‘Hey, I made the big leagues.’ I got called up for a reason, and I can play at this level.”
Ventura understands Phegley’s situation.
“He’s got a shot, just like everybody else,” the manager said. “The bad news would be if he wasn’t invited to camp. He has an opportunity.”