Good Morning
Good Morning
SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

Wilmer Flores has grand time as Mets' offense erupts

New York Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores is greeted

New York Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores is greeted in the dugout after his grand slam against the Milwaukee Brewers during the fourth inning of a baseball game at Citi Field on Saturday, May 16, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Wilmer Flores spent the first 36 games of the season proving he's not really a major-league shortstop. Almost everyone not named Sandy Alderson seems to agree on that.

What Flores also has proved, both this season and last, is that he has an interesting bat. He projects, at best, to a middle-of-the-order hitter -- even from the No. 9 hole, as he showed with his grand slam during the Mets' incredible 10-run fourth inning in a 14-1 victory over the Brewers at rainy Citi Field Saturday night.

Terry Collins calls Flores "an RBI guy," and while there are sabermetrically-inclined people who will tell you that species is a myth, the manager is not one of them. So it was noteworthy to see the Mets' leading home run hitter produce from the last spot in the order as the club snapped a five-game losing streak with gusto.

Flores has been the most talked about, ranted about, yelled about and tweeted about Met of 2015. Turning every ground ball hit your way into an adventure will do that.

On Saturday night, he lofted a 1-and-1 pitch from Matt Garza into the leftfield seats to turn a 2-0 Mets lead into a 6-0 Mets lead. Bang! Instantly beloved.

The ball landed in the Party City Deck and was caught on a bounce by a guy wearing a Curtis Granderson T-shirt and one of the blue and orange Mets fedoras the team gave out. Many fans, apparently forgetting that fedoras went out with Prohibition, wore the hats. You may see someone still wearing one today. Be polite.

Flores, who was booed during pregame introductions, suddenly was the recipient of a standing ovation, and then a Thunderstick-aided chant of "Wil-mer Flor-es" from The 7 Line Army rooting section in centerfield. Alas, there was no curtain call, and no one thought to throw the fedoras in the air and shout, ''Huzzah!" or lead three choruses of "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow."

The way Jacob deGrom was pitching and hitting (three singles, RBI) from the No. 8 spot, the game was over once Flores' ball left the yard. The rest of the inning was a symphony from an offense that was shut out on three hits Friday night and had scored 10 runs in the previous five games. Baseball can be hard to predict, Suzyn.

What wasn't hard to predict going into the season is that Flores wasn't going to be able to handle playing shortstop every day. On Friday, Collins said: "We're concerned that it's getting to Wilmer" after error No. 9, a bad throw, led to a four-run inning.

On Saturday night, the Mets trotted out a new plan: Don't have any balls hit to shortstop. That's right -- in the first six innings, as the Mets built an 11-1 lead, Flores didn't have a single chance. The game ended as Flores turned a 6-6-3 double play on only his second chance. But that's not going to happen every day. So how do the Mets solve a problem like Wilmer?

Here's how: Play Flores at the less challenging third base until David Wright returns from his hamstring/back injury. (When will that be? Who knows?)

Ruben Tejada can play short. Or if you really want to be aggressive, give prospect Matt Reynolds a look, just as Alderson did with Dilson Herrera until he landed on the DL.

What about when Wright comes back? If Flores hits and Reynolds impresses, the Mets can think about dealing Daniel Murphy to open up second for Flores, as Fox's Ken Rosenthal suggested Saturday.

Flores (2-for-4) is batting .250 with six home runs and 15 RBIs. As Collins said, "It's not like he's Giancarlo Stanton," but Flores is an interesting player worth further study. He's just not a shortstop.

No shame in admitting that.

New York Sports