ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

INF Wilmer Flores gets fresh start with Diamondbacks

Feb 19, 2019, 4:46 PM
File-This June 27, 2018, file photo shows New York Mets' Wilmer Flores (4) before a baseball game a...

File-This June 27, 2018, file photo shows New York Mets' Wilmer Flores (4) before a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The MLB-wide reputation of Wilmer Flores, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ new infielder, can be summed up pretty quickly.

Flores was a top-100 prospect for the New York Mets from 2009-11 before finally making his MLB debut in 2013. Since, he’s known as that guy who cried on the field when he found out he was about to be traded — the deal eventually fell through — and an underachiever, albeit one who as a prospect had sky-high expectations. He’s the Mets’ franchise leader with 10 walk-off RBIs but a below-average defender.

Joining the D-backs this offseason on a one-year deal with a 2020 team option acts as a reset for the 27-year-old, who since the age of 16 knew nothing but the Mets.

“It was new. It was my first time in free agency,” Flores said. “You definitely — you get anxious. You want to know where you’re going to go, who you’re going to be with.

“What I see here is that, I mean, we have everything to win. We have everything to get it done. What I see right now is we can compete.”

Flores, who was non-tendered by New York, batted .267/.319/.471 over 126 games (88 starts) in 2018 before calling it a year due to early-onset arthritis in both knees.

“I couldn’t be happier, I couldn’t be healthier,” he said Tuesday.

Flores found comfort in coming to Arizona with fellow Venezuelan David Peralta expected to take on a bigger leadership role with Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock off to new teams.

Flores met Peralta as teammates on Bravos de Margarita, a Venezuelan Winter League squad in 2011. Four years Peralta’s junior, Flores was a hot-shot prospect while Peralta was simply trying to make it. The outfielder was in his first season attempting to resurrect his career as a position player following injuries that ended his pitching career.

With the D-backs, there’s opportunity for Flores. To start spring, he will see time at second base, first and even third, plus a little bit at shortstop, D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said.

Lovullo sees more than a pinch-hitter in Flores. Could he be more than a utility player?

For a player many pegged as a DH candidate on an American League team, Arizona is, of course, expecting more.

“It’s a quality at-bat all the time,” Lovullo said. “I have a good feel for the type of player he is defensively. I’ve been watching him, and reading up and studying some of the numbers on him. He’s going to be able to be as versatile as possible on the field and get the job with some big at-bats. Those are the things that are seen by everybody.”

Emotionally, there’s something Arizona hopes to gain from Flores as well.

Like the departed Daniel Descalso, Lovullo expects Flores to impact the locker room.

He has the demeanor. During a 2015 game, after social media had spread word of a pending trade, Flores cried when he found out he was about to be dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers for Carlos Gomez. The deal fell apart due to concerns over Gomez’s physical.

“What I get the chance to see are some unique leadership skills that he just has a huge presence,” Lovullo said. “He earned a lot of respect in this game for what he’s done up to this point, and I know that guys look at him a little differently.”

RAY THROWS LIVE BULLPEN

Starting pitcher Robbie Ray threw a live bullpen session on Tuesday and said he felt good having decided to get his pitching schedule underway faster than in past seasons. The left-hander said his slow start a year ago was due to working out mechanical issues in spring rather than using the game action to ramp up his workload.

“Coming into spring, mechanics are where they need to be,” Ray said.

“I mean, I sound like a broken record but it’s getting back the mechanics that I had in 2017, just really understanding my body and what works best for me and trying to be more consistent with it.”

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