CHICAGO -- At least for the time being, Tyler Flowers seems to have obliterated any lingering doubts about his offensive abilities stemming from last year's poor performance.
Flowers put up a slash line of .195/.247/.355 in 84 games in 2013, eventually losing the starting catching job to prospect Josh Phegley. His start to 2014 has been quite the opposite experience. In 21 games entering Sunday's game against the Rays, Flowers was hitting .388 with an .893 OPS and would lead the American League in hitting if he had the required number of at-bats to qualify.
Not that much is different for Flowers this year compared to last, except that he developed a daily routine for the first time in his career.
"It's the first time I really had a routine that I go through day-in, day-out -- good day, bad, whatever," Flowers said. "I'm showing up to the park, doing whatever I got to do and then I get in the cage and I do my routine. I think that's something that's helped me to be as close to consistent as I can and definitely more so than I've ever been in the past."
Given his struggles last season, it became difficult for Flowers to block out the heavy doses of outside criticism. The routine helps him move on from a bad day at the plate, something he and hitting coach Todd Steverson have talked about this season.
"The routine is necessary," Steverson said. "Everybody on this team has a routine, it all differs, but I will say the ability to let negativity go is huge in this game. He didn't have much of a year that he'd like to have and if you're fighting against that, it's a lot harder to do. We've talked about letting it go and starting anew and doing something different. It's hard, though, because everybody wants to do well.
"So when all you ever have left, before everything else, is everybody talking about how you didn't do something last year, it's hard to let it go and move forward. But he's doing a good job of that right now, changing that type of verbiage."
As for his approach at the plate, Flowers said he isn't doing much different. To Steverson, it's as simple as Flowers not chasing pitches out of the zone.
"A lot of people look for some magic dust or something like that on why guys are doing better," Steverson said. "Really, if you look back at it, they're just on time enough to swing at good pitches and they're great athletes. They're not big leaguers for nothing.
"When you're not blocking yourself mentally at the plate and making it harder than you should be, then good things can happen for you."
Flowers said there was some luck involved with his average, too. He said a lot of balls were finding holes and that he's been getting hits a few times when he hasn't barreled up the ball. Not that he's complaining.
"It's nice to get those, especially starting out a season," Flowers said. "But I'm not going to sit here thinking I'm going to hit .380 on the season. I'm realistic. I realize right now that I'm having some things fall my way, but I think the ability to be consistent will give me a better chance to maybe continue to have things fall my way during the season."
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.