4/27/2014 2:59 P.M. ET
Flowers' offensive game in full bloom
By Joe Popely / MLB.com
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."
Sale's return date remains undecided
CHICAGO -- Injured ace Chris Sale played catch on the field before Sunday's game, but his exact return date remains uncertain. Sale sustained the flexor muscle strain in his throwing arm and was placed on the 15-day disabled list last Tuesday, with the move retroactive to April 18.
Sale is eligible to come off the DL this weekend in Cleveland, but White Sox manager Robin Ventura said that unless the left-hander shows he can take part in significant baseball activity over the next three days, he may have to sit out longer.
"We're not just going to send him out there if he hasn't thrown and we're not 100 percent positive he's okay," Ventura said. "I would say he'd have to do something in the next three days. Nothing on the schedule [for a rehab assignment] right now. We're just trying to make sure he feels good."
Sale is 3-0 with a 2.30 ERA and 0.84 WHIP in four starts covering 27 1/3 innings. He has struck out 29 and walked seven.
Competition pushing Beckham to succeed
CHICAGO -- Gordon Beckham has been rather unlucky with injuries the past couple of years, which has made it difficult for him to find any sort of consistency at the plate.
Beckham returned Friday from a left oblique strain that shelved him for the better part of Spring Training and the start of the regular season. For the first time, however, Beckham is coming off an injury with prospects breathing down his neck.
Marcus Semien has shown good defense at second and third and has flashed timely power. Utility man Leury Garcia is highly regarded within the organization, while second baseman Micah Johnson continues to impress at Double-AA Birmingham. Johnson, who led all of Minor League Baseball with 84 stolen bases in 2013, is hitting .360 with with seven steals, three home runs and 10 RBIs in 23 games for Birmingham.
"If anything, it's probably a good thing," Beckham said of the organization depth at second base. "I mean, honestly, I am glad that the guys who filled in for me did well. We want the team to win. I don't want people to do bad and come back into a situation where we're struggling. That is definitely not what we want.
"I guess Marcus did most of the work there. He had a good start. That's great. But I am going to go out and play my game and let that fall into place."
Beckham, a career .248 hitter, is still trying to rediscover his form from 2009, when he burst onto the scene to hit .270 with 14 homers and 63 RBIs in 103 games. He looked to be back on track last season before injuries limited him to 103 games.
Consistently driving the ball to right and right-center seems to be the key to success for Beckham. At the same time, Beckham has to show he can barrel up inside pitches, so pitchers can't just jam him inside while he tries to shoot a ball the other way, hitting coach Todd Steverson said.
"He came in here with a lot of fanfare and that's tough on a guy that didn't have a gazillion, over 1,000-plus Minor League at-bats to really develop, and has been really learning how to hit at the big league level, which ain't easy," Steverson said. "And you've got to kind of tip your hat to him that he at least has a decent amount of success to this point. He's probably starting to come into what he and who he is as a hitter, based on now having X-amount of at-bats under his belt as a professional."
That said, the sixth-year pro might be on a tighter leash this season. Should he flounder, there are several players ready to take his spot.
"It's good to have him back and have that stabilization on the defense and see if he is able to pick up on some of the improvements he's made mechanically in the offseason and translate that into success at the big league level," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "It's nice to have depth. We've talked about that for a while as a goal -- to get to the point where we have alternatives, where we have young players pushing us to have either the established ones get better or make room for what's bubbling up from the Minors."
"Certainly that's not simply about Gordon, it's about all our positions. We'd love to be in a position where we do have alternatives to insulate ourselves against injury or under-performance."
• The White Sox are undecided on Wednesday's starter because of the injuries to the rotation. Ventura said Wednesday's game might be a "bullpen day," in which somebody like Zach Putnam would pitch the first 3-4 innings and the rest of the 'pen would take it from there. A lot hinges on how Scott Carroll performed in his Major League debut on Sunday.
"We're not hour to hour, but we're day to day," Ventura said. "We'll figure it out."
Carroll, 29, had Tommy John surgery in October 2012 and considered quitting baseball. He returned to the mound July 5, 2013, and had a 3.29 ERA in 11 combined starts between Rookie-Bristol and Double-A Birmingham last season.
• The White Sox have scored 134 runs this season, up from 89 at the same point last season.
• Adam Dunn (445) and Paul Konerko (434) rank third and sixth, respectively, among active players in home runs.
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.