Braves’ Tyler Flowers evaluates on-field challenges of upcoming MLB season

Braves catcher Tyler Flowers talks about his routine since baseball was put on hold and expectations now that the season expected to start in July. (Courtesy of Atlanta Braves)

Braves catcher and player representative Tyler Flowers spoke with reporters Friday for the first time since Major League Baseball’s return next month became official.

Flowers is one of 30 player reps who make up the MLBPA executive board, standing in for Braves players in negotiations between MLB and the MLBPA in the past month.

What Flowers said about the on-field challenges of the upcoming 60-game season:

On staying ready for a season amid so much uncertainty:

“Early on, it was easy to stay focused on it. You’re as optimistic as possible, (thinking) hopefully this (delay) is brief. Once it drug on past the first month, and seeing the state of the country and cities across the nation, and the difficulty they were having with it, I think it became a little more obvious that this probably isn’t going to happen in the next week or two. But then, as of the last month, it’s like, if this is happening, now is the time to ramp it back up to be prepared for it. I think a lot of the guys approached it that way. Very eager and excited early on, continuing spring training progress, then you see that it’s probably not happening that soon, and if it is going to happen, it’s going to have to be sometime soon. That’s how myself, and I’m assuming a few other guys, ramped it back up to be as prepared as possible for this. We knew it’d be a shorter spring training than normal. We have a little extra responsiblility to be as fit and ready as possible.”

On the advantages of playing 40 of 60 games against the National League East:

“It could be a little less homework from pitchers’ and catchers’ perspective. Although I’m sure with this opportunity, and the focus being on a smaller number of teams, we might end up finding ways to get more in-depth, detailed and precise in our plans of attack. It’ll make it a lot more fun where every game in this shorter setting will be impactful in the long run. Every game is going to be a little more on edge. Not just for players, but for managers and coaching staffs to make some decisions quickly knowing the impact that every game could potentially have on a much shorter season.”

On the Braves’ pitching depth being beneficial early on:

“I think you’re going to have to (piggyback pitchers early). It’s just not fair to ask somebody to go out there and go six or seven or eight (innings). I think it’s borderline unhealthy, even if you have been throwing consistently this whole time. You still haven’t been in the heat of battle with the stress of different situations and pitches, the adrenaline that comes along with playing this game in that kind of environment, that kind of competition.

“I think that’s something we have an upper-hand in. All the talented arms we have, we’re maybe afforded a better opportunity than most to really not lose as much even though some of our guys won’t be able to go as deep. We have a number of guys who are capable of similar things. You combine a couple of them together and we might end up having seven starters who end up going four innings each, which would be great.”

On having fellow catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who’s familiar with the American League East (which the Braves will face in 20 games):

“I’d say (it helps). I think any pitcher or catcher who has experienced in the East is beneficial. I think it might be a little far-fetched, if a second baseman has a ton of experience in the AL East, to expect a ton more information than we could get from technology and all the stuff we have now. But guys who have been in the unique position of squatting behind someone trying to hit, or throwing pitching toward someone trying to hit them, I think they have a different understanding and a different idea of strengths or weaknesses of the opponent. I think it’ll definitely be beneficial. I assure you we’ll be leaning on him a fair bit in those situations to get his opinion and what he’s experienced against a lot of these guys.”

On how each game’s increased importance affects preparation:

“I don’t think it’ll affect how we play. I think it’ll affect how the games are run. I think maybe our adrenaline might be a little higher in some of those situations and games. Ultimately, we’re all competitors and we hate losing. Whether it’s badminton with your neighbors, baseball games, whatever it is, we don’t like to lose. That part is going to be in place. The interesting thing is some of the moves that inevitably have to happen with the uniqueness of the situation and the uncertainty of pitchers to go deep in games. You have the same expectation of your opposition, that there’s a great opportunity to get through their bullpen in the third, fourth or fifth inning. I think that’s going to be the exciting part of this whole thing.”

On playing games without fans in attendance:

“It’s not ideal but it’s what the situation calls for. I’m hopeful that some of the places that are going to allow fans are successful and hopefully that could potentially trickle into all the other stadiums, states and cities. But again, otherwise, I think the uniqueness of the season, the impact of every game, it’s going to help counteract that lack of energy and such in the stadium. I think we’re going to do a great job of doing that on our own knowing how quick the sprint will be versus the typical marathon. I think it’s our responsibility and I think we’re going to be up to it to be energetic and have the adrenaline flowing on our own, regardless of if there’s 30 people out there or 30,000.”

On Cole Hamels’ return and benefiting from rest:

“Cole has crossed my mind a lot throughout this whole thing. He’s going to be able to hopefully, potentially, make an impact throughout this whole season. So that’s definitely a swing of events from where we were in the last spring training. I think that’s exciting. Plus having him around, even throughout spring, for a lot of our young pitchers, especially our young left-handed pitchers, that’s a great thing too. But being able to have him every day, not just the impact he’s going to have on the field, but what we can contribute off the field, I think that’s going to be a great benefit. You try to find the little positives in the situation we’re in, have been in and will continue to be in. That could potentially be one big one for us.”

On the legitimacy of winning a title in a 60-game season:

“I could see a few sides to it. Every team is playing the same number of games. So for me, that’s a legitimate season. Is a high school or college season any less legit based on the number of games they play? I don’t think so. Maybe some people do. But for me, we’re all playing the same amount of games so that’s going to determine who’s the best team in that period of time. Unfortunately we don’t really have a choice about how many games we play. That’s what we’ve got and I think everyone is going to be anxious to get out of the gates rolling, hopefully solidify a playoff spot and keep rolling from there. I think the champagne and everything will feel just the same.”