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Flowers has tough job as new ChiSox catcher

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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Tyler Flowers is going to have a busy spring.

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In addition to having to handle the White Sox pitching staff, the 27-year-old catcher will be expected to add some offense into a lineup that will miss the production of the guy he's replacing, A.J. Pierzynski.

Also, he'll have to deal with the pressure of replacing a fan favorite who was one of the last remaining links to the White Sox's 2005 World Series championship team.

``Saying this from a team perspective, Tyler Flowers is stepping into a very, very tough situation,'' White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy said.

``We lost an iconic figure and world champion in A.J. I know for the fans it's hard to watch franchise players like him and (Mark) Buehrle leave. I hope the fan base doesn't get on Tyler Flowers' case because he has such big shoes to fill. He's not going to be A.J. Pierzynski and he's going to feel that pressure at times if he has a bad week not hitting.''

The White Sox open the season at home against the Kansas City Royals on April 1. A poor start could bring out boos from fans.

``If 0 for 10 is as bad as it gets I'll be all right,'' Flowers said. ``The only way to prepare for (the pressure) is to be consistent with your preparation day in and day out. When you start changing things or let the mental side of things affect your routine, you'll get in trouble.''

The White Sox let Pierzynski go to the Texas Rangers in free agency because of their faith in Flowers.

And, at his age, it was time to get the chance to be the No. 1 catcher. Flowers hit seven home runs with 13 RBIs in 136 at_bats last season.

The White Sox are confident in his receiving, throwing and pitch-calling abilities, while pitchers say they love throwing to him.

``Being a former catcher I've got no problems with Tyler Flowers running a staff,'' bullpen coach Mark Parent said. ``He throws better than A.J., receives better than A.J. and he communicates with the pitchers in a better fashion than A.J.

``I'm excited about Tyler's chance to go play. Not to say A.J. didn't have a phenomenal offensive year last year. ... Tyler's just a little younger and more active behind the plate. If we get some offense and if our pitching is better because of (Flowers) and our offense is close, we'll be pretty good.''

A 33rd-round draft pick in 2005, Flowers came up through the Atlanta Braves system and developed into a top prospect before the White Sox acquired him in a multiplayer trade for pitcher Javier Vazquez in 2008.

Flowers had 17 homers with 88 RBIs that year for Class A Myrtle Beach, Flowers' power caught the attention of scouts, but his defense needed work. After five years of work, his defense has improved.

The White Sox expect around 15-20 homers and 50-60 RBIs from Flowers, with more walks and fewer strikeouts than Pierzynski, who won a Silver Slugger Award after hitting a career-high 27 homers with 77 RBIs.

Pierzynski's leadership will be missed, but as a catcher, Flowers could develop into a team leader. Especially if his offense complements his defense.

``I think I'm a leader right now,'' Flowers said. ``I'm not A.J., who gets in your face. Or a rah-rah guy. I think I'm more a quiet leader, I guess. I try not to act like a veteran or anything like that, but I try to be a leader with the pitching staff. And if I see something, I'm not afraid to say something no matter what it is.

``You try and help everyone around you as much as you can. That's a quality of leadership where you don't have to be a Captain Konerko to be a leader on the team.''

AP NEWS
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The Associated Press
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