Mancuso: Who’s On Short?

Opening day is 90 days away and the New York Mets search for a shortstop is where it was at the end of September. Wilmer Flores has the job until further notice and Ruben Tejada is the backup and unless GM Sandy Alderson can swing a trade, or find an alternative in the free agent market, the case is more for Flores at this point to handle the position.

And at this stage of the offseason, Alderson is not ready to find an alternative because he has said that Flores can handle the position. Forget about the Troy Tulowitzki talk as that supposed trade from Colorado for some of the Mets young pitching has discontinued.

So Flores is preparing to report in shape and ready to go when spring training commences down in Port St Lucie in six weeks. He hit .322 in 90 at bats and showed some power with six home runs in Venezuela winter ball.

What impressed some scouts, including a prominent one who has two teams in the league, was the ability of Flores to drive the ball and the 18 runs batted in also left an impression. The only question has been his range at the position and the same scout said, “Flores showed he has the ability to handle the position and can only get better but he did struggle at times defensively.”

This week Flores ,along with David Wright and four other Mets including Tejada are expected to attend an offseason conditioning program at the Mets complex in Port St. Lucie. That will help the cause for Flores, though Tejada is not conceding as of yet.

Tejada, now the veteran has always been the subject of not being in shape coming into camp. And his inconsistency at the position, along with not being able to be the hitter he was in 2011, also come into question. However, manager Terry Collins continues to be in his corner and there is every possibility that the job at short will depend on who does what from mid February to opening day.

Tejada is also expected to be in Port St. Lucie and spent the holidays in his native country of Panama with family and friends. He recently spoke to yours truly and said all the speculation and talk about his role in 2015 is never an issue.

“I am ready and prepared to play everyday,” commented Tejada who is still relatively young, 25 years old when it comes to baseball standards. And he reiterated whether it be at Citi Field in April or with another team he will be in shape and ready to go. The subject of constant talk regarding his future with the Mets, being released, or regulated to a bench player will not interfere with his plan to be ready by opening day, his sixth season as an active player.

“I have been working hard this offseason,” he said. “I will be prepared and ready and want to play everyday. I don’t let the talk get to me. It is a part of the game. I just have to go out there and do what I have to do.”

But the Mets have at times showed, they have ran out of patience when it comes to Tejada being consistent and being the player that drove in 36 runs with an on base percentage of .360 in 2011. And there has been that tendency to make the good play and sometimes make the easy one into an error.

To that, Tejada said, “It’s the game. I can only work on what I can do to get better.” His ability to remain optimistic comes with the good player.manager relationship with his manager. And a bond with Flores also helps. The two have come up and down in the Mets system, both young enough to understand that baseball is a learning process that leads to progression.

The progression is what the Mets want at shortstop whether it be Flores, Tejada, or another player they may have in mind at the position in April. And Mets fans have come to be impatient to get a quality bat who can also handle the everyday job that will also produce offense.

With that in mind, and with Flores and Tejada ready for the challenge, Alderson may sit on this issue a while longer.

Comment: [email protected] Mancuso Twitter@ring786

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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