central intelligence

The White Sox delayed giving Tyler Flowers his shot at catcher for a couple years while keeping veteran A.J. Pierzynski around. With Pierzynski now in Texas, Flowers is getting his chance.

Flowers homered twice in Chicago's opening series against Kansas City, scoring the only run of the game on Opening Day. Chicago also has been pleased with his development defensively.

"Being a catcher, your job is behind the plate," Flowers said. "What you do at the plate hitting is a bonus. ... You can't be hanging your head out there and call fastballs, or know that a guy is sitting on a breaking ball and [call for] a breaking ball. You still have to be 100 percent attentive, because every pitch decides the game.''

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By winning Thursday, the Royals avoided being swept in their opening series for the first time since 2001. That includes two-game series against the Twins (2002) and Tigers (2006).

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Cleveland improved its lineup by adding Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher in the offseason, but skeptics looked at the pitching staff and didn't consider the Indians contenders in the division. But the Indians took two of three games at Toronto during opening week thanks to strong starts from Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez. Both righthanders allowed one run over six innings.

A year ago, the two combined to go 20-32 with a 5.15 ERA. If they can turn that record around, the Indians could be relevant.

The Indians were very encouraged by Jimenez's start Wednesday in Cleveland's 3-2, 11-inning victory.

"His secondary stuff, his direction to the plate, he was down with everything,'' manager Terry Francona said, "and his changeup was really good.''