Bill Ladson of MLB.com and Ben Goessling of MASNSports.com have both written about the Nationals’ catching situation recently while coming to more or less the same conclusion: Jesus Flores will be shopped heavily if he looks healthy during spring training.
Flores was once the Nationals’ long-term answer behind the plate and was hitting .301 with an .877 OPS through 29 games as a 24-year-old in 2009, but he hasn’t played since because of significant shoulder problems and in the meantime the Nationals signed Ivan Rodriguez to replace him as the starter and traded for Wilson Ramos to be their new catcher of the future.
First, here’s Goessling’s take on where Flores stands in Washington:
They’ll definitely be trying to show Flores is healthy in spring training, in the event they could flip him for a prospect, or use him as their second catcher if Ramos draws interest. It’s more likely they’d move Flores than Ramos, but you never know.
And now here’s Ladson’s take:
He will battle for one of the spots behind the plate, but it would not come as a surprise if the Nationals use Flores as a trade chip during spring training.
Down the stretch last season the Nationals had Rodriguez and Ramos split time behind the plate and that seems likely to be the arrangement this season as well, so if they can get a good return for Flores expect general manager Mike Rizzo to pull the trigger. And even with his uncertain health status, as a 26-year-old catcher with a decent bat Flores should have some suitors.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.