Pierzynski mentors potential replacement Flowers

Pierzynski mentors potential replacement Flowers

Pierzynski mentors potential replacement Flowers
CHICAGO -- Only one factor really could have hampered the strong working relationship developed by White Sox catchers A.J. Pierzynski and Tyler Flowers.

Pierzynski, 35, who joins Paul Konerko as the two remaining players from the 2005 World Series championship team, can become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2012 season. Flowers, 26, who was acquired in the Javier Vazquez trade with Atlanta on Dec. 5, 2008, stands as the top candidate to take over for Pierzynski if the White Sox choose not to bring him back for year No. 9 and beyond.

Yet the potential changing and conflicting roles looming in the not-too-distant future have not served as any sort of stumbling point. Actually, these two players won't allow it to happen.

"I really don't think either of us are worried about that right now," Flowers said. "We are worried about winning every night and helping each other to help the team. We have a real good team and a real good chance to go deep [in the playoffs]. That would be more fun than worrying about next year."

"You don't look at a guy and say, 'Hey, this guy is going to be here next year and I'm gone,'" Pierzynski said. "You say, 'I want to help this guy get better and become a better player.'"

This season already has been an interesting ride for Flowers as the White Sox backup. Even with the durable Pierzynski working toward extending his active Major League mark to an 11th straight season with at least 1,000 innings caught, there was some talk coming into Spring Training that the right-handed-hitting Flowers might get a few more at-bats against left-handed pitchers, although the rotation would certainly be far from a platoon.

However, Pierzynski began what figures to be the best offensive showing in a stellar 15-year-career, during which he already has equaled his single-season high at 18 homers. Flowers adjusted to extremely sporadic playing time, with his average taking a direct hit, until Pierzynski recently suffered a mild right oblique strain and Flowers played five straight games.

But just because Pierzynski had a rare period of inactivity didn't mean he wasn't involved.

"During the stretch where I was playing, he was talking to me before and after games," said Flowers of Pierzynski. "I would ask his thoughts on some hitters, because he's been around these guys a lot longer than I have. It has been very good give-and-go kind of stuff."

Other White Sox players have been impressed by the two backstops, including those who are directly affected by their play behind the plate.

"Both of our catchers are awesome," said White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy, who threw to Flowers in Wednesday's victory at Target Field. "[They are] a little different in the way they do things, but both professionals. We have a great mixture behind the plate."

That mixture quite possibly won't be together on the South Side of Chicago in 2013. Even if Pierzynski's successful and entertaining tenure comes to an end, there's no guarantee Flowers will take over. The White Sox were ready to bring in Miguel Olivo on a two-year deal before Pierzynski re-signed prior to the 2011 season.

Flowers' game-calling ability shows he's ready for everyday work, and his offense should improve with steady at-bats. But again, the thought of rooting for Flowers' failure to enhance his own cause seems absurd to Pierzynski.

"By me not helping him, it doesn't improve me in any way," Pierzynski said. "If I do what I'm supposed to do, whatever happens will happen. ... I obviously have a deep respect for the White Sox organization. I want him to be successful, because I like him and I want him to have a good career and accomplish things he wants to accomplish.

"The White Sox will do what the White Sox are going to do. There's no reason for me to hold a grudge or try to not show him anything. That's not the right way to go about it."

Ten rookie pitchers have been part of the White Sox roster this season, so there has been plenty for Pierzynski and Flowers to focus on in the present. The fact that the White Sox are a division leader with Jose Quintana, Addison Reed and Nate Jones, to name just a few first-year hurlers playing a major role, is a credit to everyone from the pitchers to the coaching staff down to this catching tandem.

"Tyler and I both should be proud of what we've done," said Pierzynski of his team's 3.97 ERA. "With [White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper] Coop and [bullpen coach Juan] Nieves and everyone, we've done a good job of just kind of sitting down and talking about it and trying to get on the same page. It has been reflected in how we've pitched."

Their relationship as teammates was never bad, according to Flowers. He added that like all other relationships in life, it will progress because you want it, too. In what could be their only full season together, Pierzynski and Flowers hopes this bond progresses well into October.

"Of course, I don't want us to not get along or anything like that," Flowers said. "But it has turned into something where we get along great and we communicate great."

"We are on the same page, trying to accomplish the same thing, and we talk about different situations and what to try to ... do," Pierzynski said. "He's been great. He's done everything that he's been asked to do. It has been a good thing that we have going here."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.