Wilmer Flores has been the question at shortstop for the New York Mets and the subject of conversation when he makes another miscue in the infield. And when Flores also fails to produce at the plate there are more questions posed to manager Terry Collins.
Is there a change in philosophy with Flores manning the position? Among National League shortstops, Flores was tied for fourth in errors with 9 when play concluded Monday afternoon. However, his team leading ninth home run Monday, a three-run shot in the sixth inning to left field, propelled the Mets to a 6-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field.
That home run, one of three the Mets hit on the day, also gave Flores the home run lead among all Major League shortstops with seven. So with a productive day at the plate, and with an errorless game, does this end the speculation that Flores is not capable of handling the position as the Mets move forward?
Maybe not, because there is a lot of season left to play and every time Flores makes another error, or fails at the plate, he will be the subject of speculation. But Collins and those guys in the clubhouse were all supportive of Flores. Not that they ever lost their confidence in the 23-year old native of Valencia Venezuela. and that was more evident after the Mets win, which took away the bad vibes from a three- game sweep at the hands of the Pirates in Pittsburgh.
“Wilmer’s a very sharp guy, so he gets it,” Collins said. “He understands what they’re saying.”
\Collins was referring to what Flores hears. The boos from a home crowd that wants improvement at the position. Flores also hears the confidence coming from his teammates, and of course the manager.
“ He goes out there with the ability to have yesterday be yesterday and to be ready for today,” Collins said. “He made an error one night early in the game and took some abuse, and then the next eight ground balls were hit to him. He fielded them perfectly. He didn’t let it get to him, and I think that’s why, as we get deep into this season, he’s going to be a pretty impressive kid.”
Some of those errors have paved the way to a loss. And hitting the ball into the glove of the opposing shortstop, the makings of a double-play for a natural second baseman can at times lead to more mental mistakes. They say the game is mental most of the time, and having a bad game on the field and at the plate can sometimes carry over to the next game.
In the third inning, as Bartolo Colon (7-3) was cruising along for his seventh win of the season,, Flores made the play at short and was late with the throw to first. That was the first hit off Colon and their two-run inning, though Flores was not the culprit that opened the door for the Phillies. It was a play he tried to make and there has never been any question about his ability to make the play.
“I’m doing what I’m supposed to do,” Flores said. “Everyone knows what I can do. I know what I can do. Just got to execute, and just got to do it.” Collins added that Tim Tuefel, the Mets infield coach, is always talking with Flores and he always talks to his shortstop.
“I’ve talked to him a couple times,” Collins said. “I know Tim is here with him all the time. I think he gets great support from some other guys who say, ‘Look, it’s all part of the game.’ To learn how to be a great major leaguer, you’ve got to get through it.”
As to the numbers at the plate, according to Collins, “He gets 400 at bats this guy is going to have some impressive numbers.” And that home run also added to Flores’ confidence. There has always been a prevailing opinion that Flores has the power and will be a major run producer in the Mets lineup.
“Defense is defense, offense is offense,” Flores said regarding questions about his confidence getting distracted when he makes a bad play on the field, or when he has a bad day at the plate. It comes with the responsibility of now being an everyday player.
“Can’t let it happen as a professional player,” he said. “You have to separate those things. You have a bad at bat, you have to be ready for ground balls. You have to forget about what happened yesterday. I’m doing what I’m supposed to do.”
And Flores said, “Everybody knows what I can do I just have to execute and do it.”