FLORES: A plan for him. (AP)
As they were with Daniel Murphy, the Mets never seem pleased with Wilmer Flores, who carved a place in club lore last July when he was brought to tears on the field after thinking he had been traded to Milwaukee.
A couple of days later, he hit a walk-off homer to beat the Nationals to jumpstart the Mets’ pennant push. Perhaps the Mets’ 2016 pennant push began with this weekend’s four-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field, capped off by today’s 14-3 rout in which Flores tied a franchise record – Edgardo Alfonzo – with six hits, including two homers.
Yeah, six-for-six. Riding a 0-for-14 slide entering the game, there was a school of thought Flores might get sent down when Jose Reyes is brought up.
“Players aren’t naive,” manager Terry Collins told reporters. “They read the papers. They know what’s going on. I don’t think there’s any question he hasn’t heard Reyes is coming.”
What’s going on is Flores is on the cusp of losing his job as the Mets, in search of an offensive spark, reached into their past. And, outside of a wild few days last summer, the Mets’ past didn’t include Flores.
A starter for much of last season in the second half at shortstop, Flores started this year on the bench following the winter acquisitions of Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera. Theoretically, Flores was to serve as the back-up at third for David Wright and first for Lucas Duda.
Flores assumed the starter’s role at third when Wright went down, but now the Mets seemed poised to replace him with a player who has never played third. Reyes is coming, make no mistake, but what should be done with Flores?
Under no circumstances should they option him to Triple-A to make room for Reyes, an idea Keith Hernandez floated on SNY. First of all, there are no assurances Reyes will take to third. They should also not relegate him full time to the bench.
“It’s experience and reps. you have to get him out there,” Collins said to give the impression Flores’ best position is batter. “You have to get him 500 at-bats. In order to have an idea of what a player is capable of doing you have to play him.”
There’s the rub. One of the things I find annoying about Collins is how he uses his bench. All too often he’ll ride his starters while the role players collect rust, which seemed to be the case with Flores before Wright was hurt. There never seemed to be a regular resting format for Wright. There was no third-to-first rotation with Flores to start the season as he sat in ten games and only had 28 at-bats in April.
Flores was on a 0-for-14 skid before Sunday’s once-in-a-lifetime game.
“I thought I was swinging the bat well, I just wasn’t lucky,” was how Flores described his mini-slump, and of his turnaround, added, “I was looking to be aggressive.”
Whatever the Mets had in mind for Flores, he’s always been the good soldier. Genuinely hurt last year when he thought he had been traded, he seemed annoyed when the Reyes issue was raised Sunday.
“It’s not my choice,” Flores curtly said. “I’m here to play.”
Like a six-year-old child who ignores his favorite toy when presented with a new one, I fear Collins might bury Flores on the bench.
Collins has proven he doesn’t always follow through with a plan. From batting Juan Lagares leadoff last season to starting the year with Curtis Granderson hitting first; to an innings limit for Matt Harvey; to juggling his lineup; to how to handle Michael Conforto, Collins is quick to abandon a plan.
I get it, Reyes will play third base, but Flores must be used. He should start at least four games a week to keep his bat sharp. One game at third, one at shortstop, one at second and one at first. Have him be a super sub on a regular rotation. If the Mets make a run, Collins can’t afford to drive Cabrera and Walker into the ground, and James Loney needs a breather at first.
Flores is hitting and the Mets must keep it that way.