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Wilmer Flores gets look at short, but doesn't look like it's for the long-term

Mets' Wilmer Flores tosses his bat as he

Mets' Wilmer Flores tosses his bat as he heads for first base during a spring training game against the Detroit Tigers at Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Fla. on Saturday, March 8, 2013. Credit: Ernst Peters

JUPITER, Fla. - For some Mets fans, "Wilmer Flores for Shortstop" has the feel of a long-shot political campaign. It's a wonder there aren't buttons and bumper stickers.

To those folks, Ruben Tejada is the unpopular incumbent and Flores is the candidate of change. Flores' biggest selling point seems to be that he is not Tejada.

The Mets decided after the 2011 season that Flores was not capable of being an everyday shortstop. But there he was Tuesday, making his first spring training start at the position, most likely to see if he can handle a utility role during the season.

Flores played all nine innings and had four chances in the Mets' 9-8 victory over St. Louis at Roger Dean Stadium.

He bobbled the first ball hit to him, a potential double-play grounder in the first. He recovered to get the force at second.

His next chance was a tough play in the hole in the second. Flores threw late and Daniel Descalso beat it out for an infield single. Flores also recorded an uneventful 6-3 for the third out of the fifth inning and came in on a slow roller and made a nice play to end the eighth.

"I definitely can play [shortstop]," Flores said softly.

Asked if he thought the Mets were going to give him a chance to keep playing there, Flores said: "I can't control that. What I can control is just go out there and give 100 percent."

Manager Terry Collins wouldn't say when Flores will be back at short. Tejada, who has made two errors on routine grounders since returning from a hamstring injury, will start the next two games.

"He did OK," Collins said of Flores. "He's a real bright guy. He knows what's going on and so the first ground ball, the double-play ball, he just tried to rush and got himself in a bad position and the ball popped out of his glove. He got an out. I thought he made a nice play on that slow roller. So we'll run him back out there."

But when? Collins wouldn't say.

Flores signed as a shortstop way back in 2007. His last game at the position came in 2011, when he played short 129 times and made 20 errors for Class A St. Lucie. He has been tried since then at the other three infield spots but has yet to find a position other than hitter.

Flores went 2-for-3 with a double and walk Tuesday after starting the spring with two hits in his first 19 at-bats.

Last season, he hit .321 with 15 home runs and 86 RBIs for Triple-A Las Vegas. Called up to the majors Aug. 6 to fill in at third base for the injured David Wright, Flores drove in nine runs in his first six games.

But ankle injuries and Wright's return kept Flores mostly on the bench down the stretch. He finished at .211 with one home run and 13 RBIs in 95 at-bats.

In the offseason, Flores, who is listed at 6-3 and 190 pounds, spent time at a Michigan fitness and nutrition camp with Tejada and Lucas Duda.

Flores seems more fit, but is he any more nimble? And will it matter if the Mets are not ready to unseat Tejada?

Unless the Mets make a deal, Tejada is still likely to get another term as the team's shortstop. But the polls are still open.

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