About three hours before first pitch, Manager Davey Johnson had a long conversation with Jesus Flores about his new role. With the addition of Kurt Suzuki, Flores has moved from starter to backup. The opportunity he had worked for three years to regain had elapsed, replaced by disappointment.
“He’s a good, young player,” Johnson said. “I play everybody. We got an established catcher. Jesus was playing very well about three years ago. He’s made great strides in coming back, but he’s not quite where I know he can be. That was basically the conversation.”
Flores spoke to reporters before his conversation with Johnson, and he repeated what he said last night: No one from the organization had addressed his role or the trade for Suzuki with him. Flores claimed last night he heard about the deal from reporters. Johnson, whose evaluation helped convince the Nationals to take Flores in the 2007 Rule 5 draft, did not express any regret about the way he handled the matter.
“Obviously, he doesn’t have an iPad like some of these other guys,” Johnson said. “That’s just part of the life we lead. Midseason trades are obviously more difficult than offseason trades. But he’s not going anywhere. His role has changed a little bit. Your role is predicated on performance. The better you play, the bigger the role you get. That’s kind of the way baseball has been played ever since I can remember.”
Flores continued to search for answers about his season, and he came up empty. Flores has thrown out 5 of 48 base stealers – a ghastly figure to be blamed more on the pitchers than him – while hitting .221/.257/.319. Johnson said he pressed, trying too hard to break his streak.
“It’s kind of tough to answer,” Flores said. “To be a regular player, you need to do both things. I feel like that kind of player. For some reason, I haven’t been able to be the kind of player I have been in the past. I feel like inside I can do that. It’s that kind of year where you feel great, you feel healthy, you feel positive, but things are not working out for you.”
While the move stung Flores, it may benefit him. Flores had not played as an everyday catcher in the major leagues since 2009, when he played for a month before a foul tip smashed his right shoulder and ultimately sidelined him for nearly two years. Flores started this season hitting well behind Wilson Ramos, and then for about four weeks after Ramos was injured for the season. On June 5, Flores was hitting .270/.323/.382.
“The biggest plus to Suzuki is getting Flores back in that backup role,” said one scout who sees the Nationals frequently. “He hasn’t had those reps and played that many games in years. I think he is exhausted. I think this will really help him out. He’s still a good player.”
Flores tried to move on, adjusting to a lesser role and still hoping to turn around his season. The Nationals told him repeatedly that he shouldn’t worry about his offense, to focus on defense. He still pressed.
“For some reason, I haven’t found consistency hitting,” Flores said. “For some reason, it’s been kind of hard to adjust. I don’t know how I can explain. The only thing I can think about is, there’s still two more months. I know I can improve both those numbers. If I keep thinking positive, it’s going to come around.”
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