Jesus Flores is back

Adam Kilgore
Copyright 2011
Monday, February 14, 2011; 2:11 PM

It was easy to pick out the happiest member of the Nationals working out today in Viera. This time last year, Jesus Flores could not throw the ball back to the pitcher, and his spring would turn into nothing but a series of frustration and setbacks. His surgically repaired right shoulder would just not heal. At times during 2010, he said, he thought he might never play in the majors again. Today, though, there was Flores, catching bullpen sessions, throwing the ball back as if it was second nature, just like it always used to be. Flores will be one of the most intriguing stories of this Nationals spring training. Throughout 2008 and the early portion of 2009, Flores became perhaps the most promising young Nationals player. He was a 24-year-old catcher who, in the first 26 games of the season, posted a .905 OPS. And now, after a trying recovery, he's back. "My shoulder is finally healthy," Flores said. "It's a new year for me. I'm ready to compete. I feel 100 percent, physically, mentally. I'm really excited to start spring training. "It is a big thing for me. God and baseball has given me another opportunity to come back, and I feel glad for it. The last couple of years have been really hard for me, but I don't want to think about that. It is in the past, and like I said, it's a new year for me." Flores said nothing about his pregame or postgame routine has changed from before the surgery, which he underwent at the end of the 2009 season. He feels like the same player he was before the injury. "I think even better," Flores said. "Because I feel like nothing else can scare me any more than being in surgery or recovering. A lot of frustration, a lot of bad moments make you a strong player." Flores, though, is not guaranteed a spot. The Nationals also have Ivan Rodriguez and Wilson Ramos behind the plate, along with Derek Norris, the Nationals' best position-player prospect behind Bryce Harper, in the minors. Depending on how the spring plays out, Flores could find himself either playing at Class AAA Syracuse or included in a trade. "Right now, I'm not thinking about that," Flores said. "I'm just thinking to keep healthy and show the team that I'm ready to be here. I know Pudge and Ramos, they're good players, good catchers. But I'm not afraid of anything. Baseball is baseball. You need to go out there every day, give your best, and let everything happen."

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