Rookie Flores Seems to Be Catching On

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 27, 2007

PHILADELPHIA, July 26 -- From May 19 through June 19, rookie catcher Jesus Flores managed just one hit in 23 at-bats spread over 12 games. His batting average dropped to .200. He didn't flinch.

"He comes here early to work every single day," veteran first baseman Dmitri Young said.

On Thursday, Flores lifted the Washington Nationals to a 7-6 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies with a three-run homer in the eighth inning, his second major league home run. It was the latest evidence that Flores -- a 22-year-old Rule 5 selection who never had played above Class A before this season -- may have some staying power in Washington.

"We think he's going to be an everyday front-line catcher in the big leagues," Manager Manny Acta said. "That's what we think here. We think that he's going to hit for power. . . . We're very impressed by the defense that he has shown at this level."

Since July 1, when he hit his first homer to help beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, Flores is hitting .387 (12 for 31) with two homers, eight RBI and a .613 slugging percentage. His answer about how he manages to stay prepared when Brian Schneider gets the majority of the starts has remained consistent: work.

"I've been learning from the beginning until now," Flores said, "doing some drills that help me to be prepared for the opportunities that Manny gives to me when I come in."

The Pen Is Mighty

After Wednesday's 14-inning loss to the Phillies, the Nationals' bullpen was held together by spit and glue Thursday. After starter John Lannan was ejected in the fifth, the Nationals got scoreless outings from Chris Schroder (1 1/3 innings), Ray King (one-third of an inning) and Jon Rauch (two innings) before Chad Cordero allowed a run in the ninth.

"That's all we had right there," Acta said.

Had the game gone to extra innings, lefty Mike Bacsik -- scheduled to start Friday in New York -- would have pitched, and Tim Redding would have been moved to Friday's start.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company