Wilmer Flores made a strong case for a roster spot in Friday’s 16-2 blowout over the St. Louis Cardinals. The New York Mets infielder hit a grand slam and drove in six runs. Terry Collins stated earlier this year of his intention to use Flores and Jose Reyes as utility infielders this season. Despite Flores’ strong performance, he still faces an uphill battle for consistent playing time in 2017.
Flores has 21 career home runs against right-handed pitchers, along with a .253 batting average. He enjoys a higher average against lefties, hitting a career .268 with 18 home runs. Flores could not establish a consistent lineup presence last season and got the bulk of his starts only after injuries started taking their toll on the team.
Collins remains non-committal on a formal role for his 25-year-old infielder this season. “He’ll play a lot of positions and face left-handed pitching,” Collins told Newsday. “First, second, short and third. That’s what he is; the utility infielder of course.”
The Mets have plenty of lefty hitters in the lineup. As a result, the right-handed Flores will likely only receive the lion’s share of his at-bats against left-handed pitchers.
“You take what they give you,” Flores said on Friday. “When you’re out there playing every day, it makes everything easier,” he said. “I know I can play at the big-league level…but it’s not my choice whenever it comes to when I play.”
Collins shot back at Flores’ disappointment with pointed comments of his own.
“The one thing about his situation is you don’t have to like it,” the manager said. “You’ve got to accept it and be ready to play.”
Despite David Wright‘s shoulder injury, Flores will take a back seat to Jose Reyes at third base. Given the uncertainty, the young infielder knows what to improve on.
“I’ve got to get better at my defense. I’ve got to get better at my offense,” Flores told reporters after Friday’s big game. “A little bit of everything.”
Jesse Andreozzi is a staff writer for Outside Pitch Sports Network covering the New York Mets. Follow him on Twitter @Jesse_Andreozzi