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Despite mistakes and lack of hitting, Wilmer Flores believes in himself

Wilmer Flores of the Mets bats in the

Wilmer Flores of the Mets bats in the fourth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field on Friday, Aug. 15, 2014. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The words mean more to Wilmer Flores now than when he first heard them.

Recently -- before almost every game, Flores said -- he's been telling himself, "Don't be afraid to fail."

The simple message originated from Bobby Abreu. While both were with Triple-A Las Vegas in April, the 40-year-old Abreu provided what Flores said Friday was the best advice he has ever received. Since Aug. 7, when Flores was named the Mets' starting shortstop, the message has served as a fitting reminder.

Flores has made mistakes, but he insisted before Friday night's 3-2 victory over the Cubs that it's all part of his learning curve.

That includes his baserunning gaffe. With one out and the Mets leading by one run in the seventh, Flores tagged up from second base on a fly ball that wasn't hit all that deep to leftfield. The throw beat him and Flores was out at third.

The crowd at Citi Field collectively gasped in the first inning as Flores jogged backward on a pop-up before making a catch, demonstrating that many expect him to fail at times on defense as well.

After all, he played only 32 games at shortstop in the minors this season, his first action at the position since 2011.

"It's no secret that he's an offensive-minded shortstop," said David Wright, who believes Flores' defense has been good.

It's the trade-off the Mets decided to make: Discover whether Flores can play defense well enough to keep his bat in the lineup. His bat has yet to come alive, however.

"It's hard right now because I know what I can do," said Flores, who went 0-for-2 with a walk. He is batting .235 since being named the starter and is hitting .231 overall with one homer and 11 RBIs.

Though it's uncertain whether Flores will emerge as the long-term answer at shortstop, it's interesting to think about the position this weekend with the Cubs playing at Citi Field.

Starlin Castro is the shortstop for the Cubs, who have a surplus at the position in the organization. The Mets were linked to the Cubs in trade rumors involving Castro before this year's non-waiver trading deadline.

Much like the young crop of Cubs, Flores always has displayed potential. He has hit well at every level in the minors.

Unlike that group, Flores has spent seven seasons in the minors. But he is only 23 years old.

"People forget how young he is because it seems like he's been around forever," Wright said.

"I know what I can do," Flores said. "It is my chance right now. I'm ready for it."

At the very least, he doesn't seem afraid to fail.

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