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Wilmer Flores back from disabled list, hopes to give Mets offense a boost

Wilmer Flores, doubling against the Diamondbacks at Citi

Wilmer Flores, doubling against the Diamondbacks at Citi Field in May, returned to the Mets Friday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

PHOENIX — It wasn’t quite the impactful lineup reinforcement the Mets had been hoping for a week ago, but it’s not nothing. The Mets activated infielder Wilmer Flores off the disabled list Friday after an 18-day stay with a sore lower back that turned out to be a disc issue that required a cortisone shot.

Flores said he is back to full strength now, however, and manager Mickey Callaway indicated he will be in the lineup Saturday against Arizona lefthander Patrick Corbin.

“I’m 100 percent,” Flores said, adding that the back issue is not something he will have to manage moving forward. “My timing is there and I’m good to go.”

Evidence of Flores’ timing: In a three-game rehab assignment with high Class A St. Lucie, he went 6-for-11 with two doubles, a homer and no strikeouts.

The Mets could use some of that production. In Flores’ absence, they went 3-13 and scored 2.4 runs per game. Among the changes during that span: They cut Adrian Gonzalez, Flores’ first-base platoonmate for the first third of the season. First-base prospect Dominic Smith, who turned 23 on Friday, took Gonzalez’s place.

Gonzalez mostly played against righties, Flores against lefties, in accordance with their historical strengths. The Mets have been particularly bad against lefthanders this year — they’re hitting .199 with a .282 OBP and .289 slugging percentage — and Flores, in a reverse of his norm, has contributed to that. His .174/.250/.239 slash line in 24 games against southpaws is a significant dropoff from the .274/.318/.520 career averages he brought into this season.

Flores isn’t sure why that has been the case.

“I feel really good,” he said. “I just haven’t gotten results. That’s all. I feel like I’ve been swinging at good pitches, making good contact. But sometimes you just don’t get results.”

Callaway also didn’t know, but he emphasized Flores’ importance to helping the Mets turn their season around.

“We obviously need a guy of his caliber to swing the bat well, to have success against those guys,” Callaway said. “It’s hard to say an exact reason. That’s one of the things about being a guy that’s coming off the bench and getting the rare start. It’s tough to get going.

“From what I know of the history of Flo, that’s been the case in the past. Unfortunately, it seemed like he was starting to get going a little bit and playing a little bit more. He kind of tweaked his back. So looking forward to getting him back in there against lefties.”

Smith and Flores will share playing time depending in part on the opposing starting pitcher for a given day, though it’s not clear if it will be a straight platoon. Callaway said Flores could even “sneak in” some starts against righthanders.

Either way, it would be hard for Flores not to be an upgrade for the Mets’ offense. He tried to put on his optimistic face about the state of the team.

“It’s been tough. I feel like it’s just part of the game,” Flores said. “Hitting is contagious. Somebody starts hitting, two guys start hitting and all of a sudden everybody is hitting. We have time to get out of this. I know we’ll get out of this. We’ll turn things around.”

Kelly optioned. The Mets optioned infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly to Triple-A Las Vegas to make room for Flores on the 25-man roster. Kelly was called up Tuesday and didn’t play in any of the three games he spent with the major-league team. With Kelly gone and Jay Bruce out again Friday resting his sore back/hip, Flores and Smith were the backup outfielders.

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