Mets shortstop time share is working for Ruben Tejada, Wilmer Flores
CHICAGO - The ideal situation would be for there to be no decision at all. The Mets would simply designate an everyday shortstop and leave it at that -- no daily review of statistics, no review of matchups, no sticking with the hot hand.
While most big league managers would rather avoid this juggling act, Terry Collins seems to be just fine with it, at least when it comes to shortstop.
In the last two weeks, Ruben Tejada and Wilmer Flores have formed an odd tandem, essentially splitting time evenly. But the awkward arrangement has produced results, which has only emboldened Collins to proceed with the time-sharing arrangement.
"I hope they keep swinging the way they're swinging," Collins said.
Flores, 22, was promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas as an alternative to Tejada, 24, who left himself vulnerable by stumbling out of the gate. Beginning on May 20, Flores started three consecutive games, a sign that he had perhaps taken over at shortstop. Though he is hitting just .256 since that time, Flores has also had a few outbursts, such as his six RBI game against the Phillies on Monday night.
And his defense -- a major question before his promotion -- has been adequate.
Tejada has responded to the time share with perhaps his best stretch of the season at the plate. He's hitting .417 in his last 30 plate appearances.
"It's a little bit hard," Tejada said of the arrangement. "But I can't do anything, only wait for the opportunity and stay ready to play every day no matter if I'm playing."
The situation is unusual. Both are righthanded hitters, offering no platoon advantage for playing one over the other. And both are young, meaning either could benefit from every day playing time, whether it's with the Mets or at Triple-A Las Vegas.
Yet, Collins has shown no indication of ending the arrangement soon, even though both Tejada and Flores admit they have faced an adjustment. Both have been forced to adapt, arriving at the ballpark not knowing whether their name will appear in the lineup.
It's an adjustment that can be particularly tough for young players such as Flores, who have come up through the minor leagues as starters. In a part-time role, the challenge ahead for Flores is keeping sharp even when it's possible he could go as many as three games without significant action.
"I haven't found a way yet," Flores said. "I'm still trying to see what's good for me. It's not like I'm used to it, but if that's what it's going to be, I'm going to find a way."
So far, Flores said he has taken more swings than usual before games, hoping it will translate. While Flores has made changes, Tejada said he has stuck to his typical routine, proceeding as if he were still starting games every day.
Collins believes Tejada has upswing that has coincided with Flores' arrival, perhaps putting more pressure on him to perform. He also believes extra rest has helped.
"It may be the fact he's fresh," Collins said.
Tejada played down the notion of Flores providing extra motivation. Instead, Tejada believes he's seeing the results of a renewed focus on using his lower body while hitting, while also focusing in on plate discipline, hitting the ball to all fields and keeping better balance during his swing.
"He's doing some things different," Collins said. "There's no question."
Perhaps, that alone is reason enough for the awkward arrangement to continue.