Tejada’s Out, Flores Is In, and the Mets Lose
Shortstop Prospect Comes Up From Minors but It’s Uncertain How Much He’ll Play
MILWAUKEE—The questions surrounding the Mets are rarely met with answers. They just get delayed, shoved into the background in the hopes that a solution will emerge from circumstance.
The Mets spent the entire winter, all of spring training and two weeks of the regular season trying to choose between Ike Davis and Lucas Duda at first base. They still don’t know how best to maneuver their crowded outfield situation. And now, after Thursday’s developments, they once again find themselves stocked with two shortstops and no legitimate plan for how to use them.
One day after taking a 94-mph fastball to the head, Ruben Tejada remained on the Mets’ active roster, apparently avoiding serious injury after the scare in Seattle. Nonetheless, wanting to give Tejada another game to rest, the Mets promoted infield prospect Wilmer Flores from Triple-A Las Vegas, leaving them with unrest at perhaps the most important spot on the field.
It won’t be resolved soon, either. Manager Terry Collins said before the Mets’ series opener here against the Brewers that they expect to keep the 22-year-old Flores around for the foreseeable future, even if they can’t explain how they will distribute playing time.
“We’re going to try to work him into the lineup as best we can,” Collins said. Hours later, Mets pitcher Dillon Gee allowed six runs in five innings in a defeat here at Miller Park.
If this all sounds familiar, well, it should. The Mets went through this exact debate more than two months ago when they called Flores up the first time. At that point, Collins stressed that he didn’t want Flores on the team if Flores couldn’t start regularly, an opinion Collins continued to espouse after Flores returned to the minors.
With Flores gone, the Mets took the unusual step of carrying six outfielders and no true backup shortstop—an unorthodox approach designed to spark their struggling offense. The plan worked to an extent: The Mets went 12-11 over that span, a good stretch considering they entered Thursday with a record of 48-53. Flores, meanwhile, hit .340 with eight homers in Las Vegas.
But, asked if he thinks Flores can work his way into the lineup on a consistent basis this time, Collins said, “That’s a good question. The answer is, where?”
“We’re playing pretty good,” he continued. “I’m trying to keep things from being disrupted as much as I can.”
This might only hurt Flores, who called playing every day “so much easier.” That said, he recognizes that he might not receive that opportunity with the Mets, which means he must adjust to sporadic duty. He has gone 1 for 7 as a pinch hitter this season. He knows he needs to adapt.
“I’ll just have to find a way,” Flores said. “If I’m playing every day, OK, good. If I’m not, I’m just going to get used to it and try to find a way to be ready for any situation.”
In fairness to Collins, Tejada did nothing in particular to earn a demotion. Despite his .235 batting average, he owns a .358 on-base percentage, which ranks third among all shortstops. Collins added that, “Ruben has played a lot better than the last time” the Mets carried Flores.
So what does that mean for Flores? The Mets insist that they still value him as a part of their future, even if they can’t seem to carve out a job for him. They could test Flores once and for all by guaranteeing him the everyday shortstop role for an extended period and seeing how he fares. But they don’t appear inclined to go that route.
For better or worse, Collins clearly appears to favor Tejada. But this issue with Flores won’t just go away on its own.
“Had he not got hit in the head,” Collins said of Tejada, “I’m not sure we’d be talking about this.”