Wilmer Flores remembers playing first base when he was little Wilmer growing up in Venezuela. He also played 23 games there in the minors, including three starts this past week during his rehab trip to Double-A Binghamton. And he made two starts there in April for the Mets.
The experience as a kid doesn’t count to him. “You can’t compare the minor leagues to when you’re like 10 years old,” Flores said.
The point is, that isn’t a lot of quality time at the position. With Lucas Duda down for at least four to six weeks with a stress fracture in his lower back, Flores could be learning more about first on the job if David Wright’s neck soreness doesn’t turn out to be serious.
Before the Dodgers’ 4-2 win over the Mets on Sunday night at Citi Field, manager Terry Collins said Wright was unavailable. Having recovered from his hamstring strain, Flores was activated from the disabled list and started at third. Eric Campbell, batting .169 entering the game, opened at first for the eighth straight game.
If anti-inflammatory medication makes Wright right again within a couple of days, Collins said Flores will make his transition, becoming part of a first-base platoon.
“I think he’ll be fine there,” Collins said. “He’s gotten maybe not the number of reps on the field that you might want, but he’s played the middle of the infield, so we know he’s got athleticism.”
Flores could see a good amount of time at first against lefthanders in addition to his other backup infield duties. James Loney will face the righthanders. Collins said he expects Loney, acquired on Saturday from the Padres, to be activated Tuesday and to help tutor Flores.
“I think when the playing time comes, I’ll get comfortable,” Flores said. “I’m a shortstop and second baseman. I think those [rehab] games really helped a lot.”
In Port St. Lucie, Flores, 24, prepped for his new utility role, and he had an 11-time Gold Glove mentor at first.
“We had Keith Hernandez fortunately come out in spring training and spend a lot of time with him, the thought process of where to play, how to line up and what to anticipate,” Collins said. “Obviously, those are all great things, but you’ve got to go experience it.”