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A.J., Flowers aiming to lead young Braves rotation

MLB.com @philgrogers

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- There's something beautiful about the perspective of a kid.

Tyler Flowers hadn't yet started Little League but had fallen in love with baseball when his hometown Braves were going with Javy Lopez as their primary catcher and veteran Charlie O'Brien as the backup.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- There's something beautiful about the perspective of a kid.

Tyler Flowers hadn't yet started Little League but had fallen in love with baseball when his hometown Braves were going with Javy Lopez as their primary catcher and veteran Charlie O'Brien as the backup.

"It seems like it was those two guys for a 30-year period," Flowers said.

It was two seasons, actually, but one of those was 1995, the magical year when the Braves beat the Indians in the World Series and we all thought they were on their way to many more parades. Flowers watched it all with the wide eyes of a 10-year-old.

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There's little Flowers would love more than for a younger generation to grow up with similar memories about the Braves over the next few years, with him and his former White Sox teammate, A.J. Pierzynski, as the guys catching an elite starting rotation.

"I plan on doing the best I can with these young guys, help them develop, help us win," said Flowers, who turned 30 in January. "If all that happens relatively quick, I don't see why I can't be a long-term answer, [a] solution to help the organization get back to the greatness it was."

Because Flowers spent the last seven seasons with the White Sox, Pierzynski probably has a better view of the construction project going on in Atlanta. He was imported to be a mentor to young catcher Christian Bethancourt last season but wound up as the primary catcher, a role he's had since taking over as a regular with the Twins in 2001. Bethancourt was traded to the Padres in December.

Video: Braves sign catcher Flowers to two-year deal

Atlanta used 37 pitchers en route to 95 losses last season. Pierzynski caught 11 of them in their Major League debuts.

There will be a lot of on-the-job training this season, too. General manager John Coppolella and president of baseball operations John Hart imported highly regarded pitching prospects Sean Newcomb, Aaron Blair and Chris Ellis to add to a stable that already included Touki Toussaint, Max Fried, Lucas Sims and Tyrell Jenkins. They also landed shortstop Dansby Swanson, the first overall pick in last year's Draft, and leadoff man/center fielder Ender Inciarte in the deal that sent Shelby Miller to the D-backs.

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"Seems like we have more new guys this year than we did last year,'' Pierzynski said. "We've got some guys with good arms, got some guys with talent. We've got some position players that can play. Last year was sort of like, piece it together. This year you can start to see it coming together, which is nice."

Pierzynski knows how the fate of teams can turn around quickly. The White Sox won the World Series after signing him to be their catcher in 2005. And the Twins became the AL Central heavyweight in 2002, after going a decade without a postseason appearance since their championships in 1987 and '91.

"It is similar [to the Twins], in that it's a bunch of young kids with a lot of talent," Pierzynski said. "We were homegrown, and here [the Braves have] acquired a lot of guys from other places along with their own guys. If you piece them together with the right veteran guys, I think in the next few years, the Braves can be really good, really fast."

Video: CWS@NYY: Flowers makes perfect throw to get Gregorius

The Braves' philosophy is that winning starts with a strong rotation. That's where having two veterans to handle the arms is a key.

"You look at a lot of consistently good teams, [and] I think it's fair to say that there is a staple behind the plate, a guy who had something to do with the ascent to the top, a guy who has a lot to do with the consistency of a starting staff over a multiyear period," Flowers said. "That is one thing I enjoyed in Chicago, to grow with those young guys. I developed their trust, where we would go for months without them shaking me off."

Chris Sale was among the White Sox pitchers who were disappointed that Flowers was non-tendered last fall. He was unemployed only two weeks before the Braves signed him to a two-year contract. He is a career .223 hitter but delivered 15 home runs in 2014 and enjoys a strong reputation for pitch-framing and calling a game.

"I enjoy catching," Flowers said. "The preparation aspect, the physical challenge of it. I enjoy having a lot of responsibilities on every pitch, before every pitch, after every pitch. It's just constant go, go, go. You definitely have to be prepared each and every game to be confident out there, know what you're supposed to do. That's sort of the fun part of the job."

Pierzynski has been a true two-way catcher in his long career. He seldom walks but has batted .282 in 1,978 games (11th all-time among catchers) and hit five home runs in his 32 postseason games. He still lives in Orlando, Fla., where he grew up, so he can sleep in his own bed during Spring Training. He says he feels the same physically as he did 10 years ago, which could allow him to play at least a few more seasons, extending his career into his 40s.

Video: WSH@ATL: Pierzynski starts double play on a bunt

"I still love baseball, still love playing the game of baseball," Pierzynski said. "As long as my wife, kids are still supportive, I want to play. I check with them after the last game of every season. It's year-to-year, but as long as I'm physically able and they still allow me to do it -- and a team wants me -- I don't know why I'd stop."

Flowers was originally drafted by the Braves, but he was traded to the White Sox in a deal that sent Javier Vazquez to Atlanta. He served as Pierzynski's backup in 2011 and '12 before the Sox allowed Pierzynski to leave as a free agent to open more playing time for Flowers.

Pierzynski and Flowers combined to start 204 games last year. They're expected to split time fairly evenly this season and could form a productive platoon, with the left-handed-hitting Pierzynski starting against most right-handers and the right-handed-hitting Flowers getting all the lefties.

But both of them know that their primary obligation will be like the one that Lopez and O'Brien filled for Hall of Famers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz back when Flowers was just another Georgia youngster, cheering on his hometown team.

"Just helping these kids," Pierzynski said. "That's what it's all about."

Phil Rogers is a national reporter for MLB.com.

Atlanta Braves, A.J. Pierzynski