Tyler Flowers entered Chicago White Sox spring training along with pitchers and the other catchers, playing with a clean slate.
Flowers will be watched a little more closely this spring than before by White Sox coaches. He'll be seen as the White Sox's catcher of the future, which comes with a fair amount of scrutiny.
Flowers is coming off his first season playing a significant amount of time at the major league level after small stints in 2009 and 2010.
In 2011, he appeared in 38 games, starting 25 of them. He put forth 256.2 innings of work in the field.
Flowers' numbers for the season leave something to be desired. He hit .209 with five home runs and 16 runs driven in. Also, Flowers had a .310 on-base percentage and a .719 on-base-plus-slugging rate.
His plate discipline was tremendous. He walked 14 times in 129 plate appearances. That his on-base percentage was 101 points higher than his batting average provides relief, especially considering how poorly he hit.
Flowers had nine fewer walks than hits, which is strange.
Still, as long as he gets on base, that's what counts.
Flowers found his opportunity to show his stuff in August and early September when A.J. Pierzynski suffered a wrist injury.
With Pierzynski out, Flowers hit .221 with three home runs and 10 runs batted in in 20 games. His on-base percentage was a nice .329.
That period was highlighted by a streak from August 13 to 29 when he amounted nine runs batted in to go with a .318 average and a .411 on-base percentage.
That impressive streak caught some eyes. Ozzie Guillen told the Chicago Sun-Times he'd have to think of ways to work Flowers in when Pierzynski was to return.
Setting Spring Training Expectations
Now, Flowers has to go to work to show that that August run was more than a flash in the pan.
While other players are simply trying to show that they have rhythm and are in shape, Flowers needs to show that he can hit at a decent clip.
He'll have to show that he can hit decently in spring training so that Robin Ventura has some confidence in his ability to hit decently in the regular season.
If Flowers hits .300 in spring training, that would do the trick.
To see Flowers hit a few home runs in spring training would also be nice, although it's hard to tell what kind of power he's capable of outside of a major league ballpark.
Also, Flowers will have to show his characteristic plate discipline. He'll have to show the patience at the plate that he demonstrated last summer. The way he took pitches last season was impressive, and the White Sox have a true asset if he can continue to do that.
Last season, the White Sox didn't do well taking pitches. They had a four-game stretch in which they didn't take a walk, tying a major league record.
If Flowers can hit well in spring training, it might lead to him hitting .250 with a .360 on-base percentage for the White Sox in the regular season.
That would be an incredible blessing for a White Sox team that needs to do better at getting men on base.
Now, one can't forget the importance of fielding for Flowers.
Flowers has to show that he's capable of being a better defensive catcher than Pierzynski. Pierzynski wasn't good at keeping opponents from stealing bases. When opponents stole bases, he often didn't try to stop them since he didn't have a quick arm.
Flowers wasn't much better at stopping base stealers. He only caught 24 percent of base stealers (eight of 33) in 2011.
Further, Flowers will have to show a good ability to catch the ball. Pierzynski has been good at this, ranking in the top five in range factor per game for catchers the last four years.
Flowers wasn't that great. He had a .992 fielding percentage, but allowed three passed balls and seven wild pitches.
If Flowers doesn't do well fielding or hitting, then Kenny Williams will be calling up Josh Phegley for his shot at the White Sox major league club.
Conclusion: Flowers Has a Prime Opportunity in Spring Training
This is an important spring for Flowers.
With A.J. Pierzynski aging, Flowers needs to show that he can be trusted to start once every week or two, perhaps even twice a week down the stretch. That's if Pierzynski stays healthy.
If he can have a good spring, Flowers could see his share of action in the White Sox starting lineup, even though it may be 40 or 50 games.