NEW YORK -- When the Mets recalled Wilmer Flores from Triple-A Las Vegas on Friday, they named him their starting shortstop with plans to try him out at the position for at least a week or two.
Instead, Flores' audition lasted a total of two days. Illness forced him out of the lineup on Sunday and Monday, giving Ruben Tejada an opportunity to steal the job right back.
"This guy has hit the ball on the barrel his last six at-bats," manager Terry Collins said, explaining why he started Tejada at shortstop for a third straight game on Tuesday. "If he didn't walk, he hit it square, hit it hard. He's played very, very well defensively. I don't necessarily know the reasons why. The perception would be he got a wake-up call, and that sometimes makes a big difference."
For the past two-plus seasons, Tejada has played without a real challenger at shortstop. He responded with some of the worst offensive numbers of any player in the big leagues.
Now, Flores' mere presence is a threat, and Tejada has responded with strong play on both sides of the ball. He hit a walk-off single in Sunday's win over the Phillies, going 3-for-8 with two walks on Sunday and Monday. Collins suspects that may not be a coincidence.
"He's put together back-to-back very good games, and I said we're going to run him out there again tonight," Collins said. "The only thing you can assume -- and you could be wrong -- is that Wilmer came in and all of a sudden he lost his job, and he said, 'I've got to win it back.' Maybe he just got refocused."
Asked if Tejada can reclaim his job for good with a continued strong run, Collins added: "No question about it."