The Mets haven’t ruled out Wilmer Flores at shortstop

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Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has downplayed the possibility of the club signing free agent Stephen Drew, but there could be an unexpected in-house threat to Ruben Tejada for playing time at shortstop. According to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, Alderson said in a phone interview that he hasn’t ruled out Wilmer Flores as a possibility:

“I wouldn’t say [Flores to shortstop] is dead. I think that one of the things we want to see is how well he has done with his training regimen in Michigan. Before this offseason, I’m not sure he ever had any sort of structured, regimented conditioning program. The work that they have done on speed and agility and quickness, etc., may have an impact on his ability to play certain positions — including second base and conceivably even shortstop. But right now, that’s all speculation.”

Flores was a shortstop when he originally signed with the Mets in 2007, but he hasn’t played the position since 2011, mostly due to a lack of range. Alderson’s comments are a bit surprising given that many have doubts about his ability to even stick at second base in the big leagues, but the (perhaps far-fetched) hope is that the team-supervised conditioning program will pay dividends from an agility standpoint. Without that positional-flexibility, it could be a challenge for him to make the Opening Day roster.

Flores, 22, hit .211/.248/.295 with one home run and 13 RBI over 101 plate appearances in his first taste of the big leagues last year.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.