Chicago White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers is doing all he can to make White Sox fans forget about the departed A.J. Pierzynski.
While there was little doubt in the minds of Sox fans that Flowers would greatly out-perform Pierzynski on the defensive end, the offense was a different story.
His .261/.346/.435 performance this spring, and just one home run, only compounded this fear.
It has only been two games, but some of that doubt should start subsiding. Flowers' early power surge (3-for-6, two home runs) should help ease the pain of losing a long-time player like Pierzynski.
More encouraging than just the volume of the home runs is the type of pitches Flowers has launched.
Ervin Santana and James Shields both offered bad pitches, the kind of pitches that great players should hit hard. Flowers didn't "just miss them," as broadcaster Hawk Harrelson likes to point out.
No, Flowers took those "cookies" and sent them over the fence.
Shields' 2-2 changeup on Opening Day was left floating up and away, a proverbial meatball for power-hitting right-handers. Flowers had difficulty picking up Shields' changeup in his second-inning strikeout, but he clearly had no problem when he saw it again.
In their sixth-inning matchup, Shields avoided the changeup altogether.
Shields' pitch was masterful when compared with Santana's 88-mph fastball down the heart of the plate that Flowers sent out Wednesday afternoon.
Once again, Flowers took a pitch that should be hit hard and hit it hard.
Like Shields before him, Santana adjusted to Flowers, and, in their matchup later in the game, threw only one fastball and kept it extremely low in the zone, mixing it with three sliders.
Santana and Shields are both veteran pitchers with histories of success at the big league level. For them to adjust to Flowers and pitch him dramatically differently during a game shows that pitchers in 2013 will have to be aware of Flowers' presence.
We already know he's going to affect the White Sox positively with his defense. If he can continue this power surge and be a potent, productive hitter in the middle of the order, White Sox fans will no doubt be asking themselves, "A.J. who?"
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