ATLANTA — Wilmer Flores doesn’t look like he’ll be giving up his newly earned stranglehold on the Mets’ third base job any time soon.
In Saturday’s doubleheader sweep of the Braves, Flores went 6-for-9 over the two games with two doubles and a triple. The outburst raised his average to .333, and continued a monthlong surge that he has used to supplant the veteran Jose Reyes as the Mets’ starting third baseman.
“He started the year as a backup player and he’s worked his way into the lineup now,” manager Terry Collins said. “It looks like he’s going to say ‘I’m staying,’ so he’s done a good job.”
Over his last 31 games, Flores is hitting .394, with the damage coming against both lefties and righties.
“It’s just staying more up the middle with righties,” Flores said. “And that comes with being out there every day. You try different things that are working for you and that’s a big one.”
Flores began the season frustrated with coming off the bench, a role that he struggled with last season. His production perked up when he saw more regular playing time. That trend has continued again this season.
“You just want to hit the ball hard,” Flores said. “You hit the ball hard and that’s all you can control.”
Collins said Flores has worked to cut down his swing, a two-strike adjustment that has paid dividends.
“He’s grown into the player everybody thought he was going to be,” Collins said. “We all thought his bat had a high ceiling and he’s showing it now.”
Changing of the guard?
Team officials continue to insist that a promotion for top prospect Amed Rosario isn’t imminent. But the Mets’ veterans keep leaving the door open for a change.
In Saturday’s opening game, Asdrubal Cabrera committed a pair of first-inning errors, bringing his season total to 10. It comes after he made just seven errors all last year.
“This guy, after watching him last year, was one of the most surehanded guys that I have ever seen on the field,” Collins said. “If the ball was hit to him, you were out. It just seems right now he isn’t getting his feet in the position he wants them to be.”
Meanwhile, Reyes started at shortstop in the nightcap, getting a single in the fifth inning to end a hitless streak that had reached 27 at-bats.
Rosario, 21, is hitting .339 with six homers and 43 RBIs at Triple-A Las Vegas. And scouts say he would be an upgrade defensively.
Though a promotion might still be a few weeks out, one perceived barrier should soon be passed. In only a few days, the Mets should be clear of the Super 2 arbitration deadline.
The Mets won consecutive games for the first time May 29-30 . . . Second baseman Neil Walker returned to the starting lineup in the second game after appearing as part of a double switch in the opener. In the two games, he reached base five times with two hits, two walks and a hit by pitch. He had been out since Tuesday with stiffness in his left knee . . . Infielders Matt Reynolds and T.J. Rivera, and righthander Tyler Pill were all optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas. They were moved to make room on the roster for Yoenis Cespedes, Steven Matz and Seth Lugo, all of whom came off the disabled list.