Johnson always thought Flores could be a good one. During his time as a Nationals consultant, Johnson strongly recommended trading for Flores when he was just starting out in the Mets’ farm system.
“You could see he was a good receiver, he had a cannon arm and good bat-potential,” Johnson said. “As a manager, you’re looking for guys like that.”
The Nationals selected Flores from the Mets in the 2006 Rule 5 draft, in which teams chose from a pool of minor leaguers left unprotected by other organizations. At only 23, he was considered a high-ceiling starter in the majors. Then he suffered derailing injuries in 2009 that began after a ball caromed off his shoulder and fractured a bone (“I get a foul tip and it was almost the ending of my career,” Flores said), which eventually led to labrum surgery and a long road back. Now 27, Flores wondered whether he would be relegated to a backup’s life for the remainder of his career. It was a good question.
Ramos, 24, has more hitting potential than Flores, Nationals observers say. Last season, Ramos’s first full season with the club, he displayed the type of can’t-miss ability that left Johnson and General Manager Mike Rizzo feeling very secure about the position.
Not surprisingly, Flores wondered about his future each time Ramos delivered a clutch hit or made a dazzling defensive play. “I was the No. 1 catcher for this organization,” Flores said. “And then it was kind of like my chance just went away.”
Flores didn’t hide his frustration. He wanted to play much more than he did last season. But even by late in the season, Flores still hadn’t fully recovered from the rehabilitation process.
“He was still short [not fully recovered]. You could see it,” Johnson said. “But then he went to winter ball and tore it up. Then he had a great spring for me.
“I always looked at him as a No. 1 catcher, so I thought he could do this. Don’t get me wrong, now. Losing Ramos was a huge blow. It’s just good we’ve got another guy who can also do it.”
Flores was eager for the opportunity. He’ll at least have the rest of the season to make the most of it.
For Jason Reid’s previous columns go to washingtonpost.com/reid.