Yes, it is September and a time when the New York Mets are putting a plan together to be in contention this time next season. One of the priorities is to determine who will be starting at shortstop a year from now and Wilmer Flores may be the answer.
Flores has been getting the starts at short over the incumbent Ruben Tejada. Tuesday night he got the start at second again, as manager Terry Collins has enabled Flores to be at his natural position with Daniel Murphy manning third because David Wright has been shut down for the season.
Either way, Flores is earning an opportunity to be a regular starter, either at short or second. On this night, Flores made another statement with his first multi-home run game and driving in a career high six runs as the Mets defeated the Miami Marlins 9-1 at Citi Field.
There is no question that Flores has the range to play short on a regular basis. His arm and range have improved from the transition at second and if he continues to produce at the plate, perhaps the Mets won’t need to look for another shortstop via a trade or on the free agent market. Tejada could become the loser and go in a trade or be regulated to a bench player.
Right now, manager Terry Coillins said the job at short is still up for grabs when it comes to plans for next season. But if Flores continues to produce in the final 12-games, the job could be his when spring training commences in mid February.
Collins was asked if the shortstop job belonged to Flores. “He’s been told the shortstop job is open, Ruben has been told that.” It is difficult to make that decision in September and both home runs came off the Marlins’ Brad Penny in the fifth and seventh innings, a pitcher who is notorious for giving up the home run ball.
Still, it can’t be ignored that Flores was in an 0-for-21 drought and then found his stroke driving in 10-runs in the past four games, going 8-for-14 with six extra base hits. There is that hitting for power and that, according to Collins, will be hard to keep him out of the lineup.
In the Mets clubhouse, their dressing quarters are nearby. Flores and Tejada don’t say there is competition as they have been supportive of each other. The 20-year old rookie Dilson Herrera, may also be a part of this mix as he gets some playing time. But the emphasis now has been keeping Flores in the lineup as he continues to make a move for a starting role in 2015.
“That’s out of my hands,” Flores said about the shortstop job. “I’m just trying to do my job, I can’t control what happens.” He goes about his business very quietly and Tejada looks at Flores as s good teammate.
Tejada is doing his part when he gets that opportunity to start. He drove in two runs, including a run scoring double in the Mets four-run fourth inning. He would prefer more playing but is also quietly going with the plan, realizing that his days as a starter may have diminished more because of the continued development of Flores.
Said Tejada about his productive night, “If I don’t get a chance I can’t do what I did,”referring to his at bats including the solid double to left center.
So this could become a dilemna in the off-season for the Mets, who have expressed interest in acquiring a productive hitter for the shortstop position.
Not one though for Collins, at least for the moment.
“One time there was concern about whether or not he was going to play the middle of the infield. And as he’s gone through the minor leagues, because his bat plays, everybody looked at him to be at another position,” commented Collins.
Flores, a first round draft pick of former GM Omar Minaya. went to a winter fitness camp and worked on his lower body. He had been assigned to Triple-A Las Vegas earlier this season and was called up again for a third time on July 24th.
“I think he’s done fine,” Collins added. “Again, he’s not going to be one of those big-rangy shortstops, but when he gets to the ball he catches it. And he’s got a strong enough arm. If he continues to swing the bat, he can play anywhere.”
The obvious power is showing in September and Flores is driving the ball against good pitching as his confidence grows.
The Game: Flores is the only player in the majors this season to have multiple games of six RBI and he has had an extra base hit in a career best four straight games….
Bartolo Colon won his 14th game, most by a Mets starter since R.A. Dickey won 20 in 2012, though his 12-hits allowed became the first pitcher this year to allow that many and one run or less…
Juan Lagares is day-to-day. He left the game after four innings with a hyperextended right elbow and will have an MRI Wednesday morning…
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