CHICAGO — In his only start since the All-Star break, Wilmer Flores had two hits, including a homer that knocked in the Mets’ only run. One day later, he returned to his frustrating reality, forced to reclaim his well-worn spot on the bench and wait for his next chance.
“I know that my time will come, if it’s here or somewhere else,” Flores said before Tuesday’s game against the Cubs. “But I know my time will come. Right now, I’m just doing what I have to do whenever I’m in there.”
Flores, 24, would like that time to come in a Mets uniform, though as he learned last year, “you never know what can happen.” As last summer’s trade deadline approached, Flores was reduced to tears in the middle of a game, crushed by his inclusion in a deal to the Brewers that ultimately fell apart.
He still isn’t pushing for a move, although it’s clear that at least for now, playing time with the Mets will continue to be sparse.
“Somebody’s got to have a day off and those are going to come,” said Terry Collins, who left Flores out of the lineup against Jake Arrieta, who is tougher on righties. “But we just took four of them.”
Of course, Collins often has given more leeway to more veteran players, even those who have been in a Mets uniform for a full season. And every time a spot on the field has come open — seemingly giving Flores a chance to play nearly every day — the Mets have acquired somebody.
When first baseman Lucas Duda went down with a stress fracture in his back, the Mets brought in James Loney. And when third baseman David Wright underwent neck surgery that will end his season, Flores filled in capably. Beginning May 29, Flores started 29 of his 33 games, almost all at third base. He hit .294 in that span, only for the Mets to reach into their past for a reunion with Jose Reyes. Entering play Tuesday, Reyes was hitting just .225.
Neil Walker, another veteran, appears locked in at second base even though his production has slowed to a trickle. He was hitting .178 in July.
By contrast, Flores is hitting .351 in July with six homers and 11 RBIs. Yet he finds himself back in a role that did not suit him well in the first half, playing only sporadically.
“I’m not going to tell you that I feel comfortable with it,” said Flores, whose average was at .180 before he stepped in for Wright. “I mean, if you haven’t played in six days out there, don’t expect people to have good at-bats. Because it’s not going to happen. This game, it’s about repetitions. Like a pitcher, a pitcher who hasn’t pitched in 15 days, I mean he’s not going to feel comfortable out there. That’s baseball.”
Wilmer Flores has been hot in July, but not hot enough to get himself in the Mets’ lineup on a regular basis: