4/6/2014 6:10 P.M. ET
Flowers taking new stance on offensive game
White Sox catcher says he's healthy, feeling good about strong start
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
KANSAS CITY -- The 2014 version of Tyler Flowers bears little resemblance to the '13 version of the White Sox starting catcher.
And that change has nothing to do with an alteration in physical appearance.
"I feel entirely different as far as pretty much every aspect," said Flowers, when talking about his overall game, which includes a .500 average after going 1-for-4 with a two-run single in Sunday's 5-1 win over the Royals in the series finale at Kauffman Stadium. "My shoulder really doesn't hurt, so that's one aspect that's gone.
"My stance is completely different. I feel like my swing is a whole lot different. All and all, I feel like almost a different player."
Flowers played much of last year with that sore throwing shoulder, which was surgically repaired last September. He struggled through a .195 performance, but he never lost the confidence of his pitching staff, something that hasn't changed during this current campaign.
As for last year, Flowers has a similar view as most of his teammates in that it's done and over, and past history is not to be revisited. He had a streak of seven straight at-bats with hits end in his last trip to the plate on Friday and believes he is doing things to sustain that offensive success.
"Right now, I feel pretty good. I'm keeping everything pretty simple," Flowers said. "I'm probably not going to continue to go 7-for-8, so I don't know yet. Like I said before, the big thing I'm trying to do is be as consistent as I can and put together quality at-bats.
"In the first two games, I didn't really do that as well as I would like. But since then, I feel like I've had quality at-bats. A lot of them have resulted in some hits, but that's not really the point. It's more about seeing pitches and swinging at strikes and taking balls, and putting together quality at-bats. Continue to pile those together game in and game out, day in and day out.
"I'm doing a lot of things that I'm really comfortable with, which I think will be good over the long haul," Flowers said. "I don't need to prove anything as far as vs. last season or anything like that. The big objective is try to feel healthy and, for the most part, I feel pretty good and have all spring."
Sox showing caution with Beckham's injury
KANSAS CITY -- Gordon Beckham has missed two straight games within his injury rehab start for Double-A Birmingham due to pain when he swings in the area of his strained left oblique.
"I would characterize it as he feels a stabbing pain at times or a tenderness and stiffness when he swings, and we are just not going to push through it," said White Sox general manager Rick Hahn. "Again, we've talked about from Day 1 on obliques, we are always hesitant to put a time frame on injury recovery because things happen, but obliques are even more tricky in that regard.
"You never know until you are back playing every day without restriction on a consistent basis, you can never really say it's behind you. Right now, we are going to err on the side of caution and hopefully get him back out there in the coming days."
Manager Robin Ventura had said on Friday that he didn't expect Beckham back until the White Sox returned home on Thursday to face Cleveland. There really is no timetable now for the second baseman after he was scratched from Friday's start.
"Probably if he was at the Major League level right now, he would try to play through it," Hahn said. "But this isn't the kind of situation we need to or want to accelerate the time table on. We want it to heal completely and then get him back out there. We'll see how it evolves over the coming days."
Ventura working out late-inning 'pen options
KANSAS CITY -- With Nate Jones on the 15-day disabled list due to a strained muscle in his left hip, young relievers such as Maikel Cleto and Daniel Webb will get chances to prove their late-inning mettle.
One of those instances arose in the eighth inning of Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Royals, with Alex Gordon on second, two outs and first base open. White Sox manager Robin Ventura chose to go with Cleto to face Salvador Perez, the Royals' hottest hitter, instead of walking Perez and using lefty Scott Downs to face left-handed hitting and hitless Mike Moustakas.
The White Sox know what they have in the established Downs, but they had a chance to get a look at Cleto in a game-changing situation. Perez won this battle with a run-scoring double to left.
"That's all we've got. They're in our 'pen for a reason," Ventura said. "You're going to be able to use them, and so far they've been all right.
"You always like to use certain guys when you're up, certain guys when you're down. But we play a lot of close games, so there's going to be quite a bit of going back and forth of who you're going to use."
There's no set long reliever with the White Sox. And while Downs, Ronald Belisario and closer Matt Lindstrom stand as the prime late-inning options, pitchers such as Cleto and Webb will get continued looks in those situations.
"Again, we wanted to give Robin as many viable late-inning options and guys who have the stuff and makeup to get important outs whenever they arise," general manager Rick Hahn said. "At this point, and I think with any club, you tend to be feeling out for roles early in the season and see how guys match up.
"I think you are going to see Webby get mixed in later in games and see how he takes to that. You still have Belisario and Lindstrom back there, and Nate's absence sort of creates some opportunities for guys to fill the late-inning void when it arises."
Abreu making positive strides in development
KANSAS CITY -- Jose Abreu literally is the talk of the town in Chicago, but that sort of notoriety has not changed the professional approach shown by the White Sox first baseman.
"His maturity and professionalism haven't changed," manager Robin Ventura said. "We're not going to see a guy if he does get popular, it's not going to change who he is and how he goes about his business.
"He's a pretty grounded kid who just wants to be a good baseball player. He understands what he means for us, where he hits in the lineup, the responsibilities he has. We're very happy with where he's at right now and I expect him to get better just as the season goes along."
Ventura pointed out that Abreu's improvement will come when he starts seeing pitchers for the second and third time.
"Pitchers have the advantage right now. He's facing guys that are the best in the world and he hasn't seen them before," Ventura said. "The more you get to see, you get a chance to adjust. He's not going up there just swinging at anything. He has a pretty good approach and he's swinging at strikes. That's the biggest key."
Third to first
• When Jose Abreu, Dayan Viciedo, Alexei Ramirez and Adrian Nieto started in Saturday's loss for the White Sox, it marked the first time four Cuban-born players were in the same starting lineup since the Cleveland Indians on April 8, 1969, per STATS LLC. Jose Cardenal, Joe Azcue, Zolio Versailes and Luis Tiant played for the Indians during a 6-2 loss at Detroit on that Opening Day. Abreu and Azcue both are from Cienfuegos, Cuba.
• Entering Sunday's series finale, 20 of the previous 27 games between the White Sox and Royals were decided by two runs or fewer, dating to 2012.
• Micah Johnson had two hits in Double-A Birmingham's 14-7 loss to Montgomery on Saturday night, giving the second baseman six hits in three games. Courtney Hawkins homered for the second time for Class A Advanced Winston-Salem, while Tim Anderson knocked out three hits, including a double and a triple. Hawkins (2012) and Anderson (2013) are the White Sox previous two top picks in the First-Year Player Draft.