Flores' huge game highlights his value to Mets

Key backup infielder keen to transcend 'lefty masher' reputation

Flores' huge game highlights his value to Mets

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- There was little doubt that Wilmer Flores' grand slam in the second inning Friday would clear First Data Field's fence. The question was simply where it would land -- halfway to a practice field beyond the wall, as it turns out, as part of a 10-run barrage against Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright in a 16-2 win.

Though it's long been obvious that's the type of power that Flores possesses, he demonstrated it almost exclusively against left-handed pitching last season.

That, Flores says, was a matter of opportunity, not ability.

"I've been comfortable since I started playing baseball," Flores said when asked specifically about his comfort level against right-handed pitchers. "I got the opportunity a lot to face lefties, but against righties I feel really good."

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Against lefties last year, Flores was one of the game's best hitters, posting a 1.09 OPS, third-best in baseball (minimum 100 at-bats) behind only Hanley Ramirez and Yasmany Tomas. But versus righties, he was pedestrian, batting .232 with a .642 OPS. Eleven of Flores' 16 homers came off left-handed pitching, despite receiving less than half his plate appearances against them.

Though Flores believes the path of a left-handed breaking ball works to his benefit, he mostly chalks his 2016 dominance vs. lefties up to a fluke -- not the type of thing that should define his career.

Still, barring injury, Flores isn't likely to log many at-bats against right-handed pitching this season. The Mets' primary backup at all four infield positions, Flores is most likely to see action first and second base when the team faces a lefty. While he continues to take regular ground balls at third base and shortstop, as well, the Mets prefer to keep him on the right side of the infield.

Only an injury to Jose Reyes, Asdrubal Cabrera, Neil Walker or Lucas Duda would change that -- and even then, T.J. Rivera, not Flores, might be positioned to pick up much of the slack. But Flores still believes he can be more than just a part-time lefty masher for the Mets.

"You can't get used to not playing," Flores said. "When you're not out there, you don't get used to that. But you take what they give you. I'm just ready for anything, and I come every day ready to play."

Added manager Terry Collins: "The one thing about his situation is you don't have to like it. You've got to accept it and be ready to play."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.