PORT ST. LUCIE — This isn’t exactly what Wilmer Flores wanted. The Mets’ infielder, who broke into tears at the thought of being traded out of the organization two years ago, is not comfortable with his role, or more precisely, his lack of a consistent role.
“It’s gonna be hard if you don’t play for three days and you got to go out there and do your thing,” Flores said. “The only thing I can do is get ready to play.”
Flores is most comfortable playing at second base, but he went all in when the Mets asked him to become their everyday shortstop before the 2015 season. When the team then went out and signed veteran shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera before the 2016 season, Flores was pushed into a utility role, benched and used as a platoon player against lefthanded pitchers.
It’s not a comfortable role for him, but he has to deal with it.
“The one thing about his situation is you don’t have to like it,” Mets manager Terry Collins said Friday. “You just have to accept it and be ready to play.”
Friday, Flores tried to make a case for more playing time against right-handers in the Mets’ 16-2 win over the Cardinals at First Data Field. He hit a grand slam and doubled off Adam Wainwright, who struggled giving up 10 earned runs in 1.2 innings.
“I’ve been comfortable (against right handers) since I started playing baseball,” Flores said. “I got a lot of opportunities against lefties (last year), but against righties, I feel really good.”
Last season, Flores, who has hit 16 home runs in back-to-back seasons, hit 11 homers off lefties. He is a career .253 hitter with 21 home runs against right handers and he has hit .268 with 18 homers against lefties.
Collins, however, said that with a roster full of left-handed hitters, Flores’ playing time will be minimal against right-handed pitchers.
“We’ve got so many left-handed hitters, they are going to play against those guys. As I said last year. That’s where baseball, where a lot of teams are going to the platoon system,” Collins said. “Switch hitters and when we face right-handed pitching, our left-handed hitters are going to get in the lineup.”
This is not the first disagreement Flores has had with the Mets this year.
This winter, he refused the contract the Mets offered him and took the team to arbitration. He beat the Mets, the first time they had lost an arbitration case under GM Sandy Alderson, to the tune of $2.2 million dollars.
Just two years ago, Flores was wiping away tears on the field after he heard that he was to be part of a trade to the Brewers. According to a source in the Brewers organization, they really liked Flores’ right-handed power and he would have provided depth in the infield for them.
The deal for Carlos Gomez fell through, however, and Flores became one of the most popular Met players.
In 2017, like last season, he will be one of the most popular players coming off the bench.
Collins made it clear Friday that Flores will again be used as a utility infielder and this spring he has spent his time doing drills at first, second, shortstop and third base. With David Wright expected to miss the beginning of the season, there will be a little more opportunity there and he has shown he can be solid at first base as well.
“He’ll play a lot of positions and face left handed pitching,” Collins said. “First, second, short and third. That’s what he is;. the utility infielder of course.
“He’ll get a lot of at-bats against left-handed pitching, be in the lineup,” Collins said. “I don’t have one spot for him.”
Earlier this week, Flores said that while he doesn’t like the uncertainty of being a utility player, he’s accepting it.
“I am more versatile than I was, so that’s good for me,” Flores said, admitting it will help his career when he hits free agency. But this year, Flores worries he will struggle.
“The only thing I can do is keep working and be ready every day for whatever they ask,” he said.
Published at Sat, 18 Mar 2017 06:23:12 +0000