Two down, five to go. After agreeing on an extension with left-hander Gio Gonzalez yesterday, the Washington Nationals today announced that they'd avoided arbitration with another of the seven players who filed for arbtration last Friday, signing a one-year deal (reported by MLBTraderumors.com to be worth $815,000) with 27-year-old catcher Jesus Flores as the Nats reported on their official Twitter (@NationalsPR). The one-time New York Mets' prospect, plucked from their organization in the '06 Rule 5 Draft, fought his way back in 2011 after two years on the sidelines recovering from a series of injuries that began when he suffered a stress fracture in his shoulder in 2009...
While working his way back from the initial injury, Flores suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder which cost him another year on the sidelines and led the Nationals to sign veteran backstop and future Hall of Fame catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez in December '09 and then, in July 2010, acquire prospect Wilson Ramos in a trade with Minnesota. Flores managed to work his way back, however, returning to the majors and playing his first game with the Nationals since September 12, 2009 on April 14, 2011. In 56 games and 218 plate appearances in Triple-A Syracuse last season, Flores had a .234/.252/.378 slash with 15 doubles and five home runs in 56 games and 218 plate appearances.
With Washington last season, Flores had a .209/.253/.314 line with six doubles and one home run in 30 games and 91 plate appearances. Upon returning to the nation's capital last season, Flores told Federal Baseball that, "... after all those years that I missed, I've just been working hard, trying to get healthy and 100% so that way I can get here and do my job and wait for the opportunity to show that I can play baseball again."
Flores apparently showed enough for the Nationals to offer the catcher arbitration and today sign him to another one-year deal. Flores will likely serve as Wilson Ramos' backup this season, after the 24-year-old established himself as the Nats' no.1 backstop last season. Both Nats' skipper Davey Johnson and Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo recommended that Flores take part in the Venezuelan Winter League this year with the Nats' general manager explaining that the catcher's, "... objective for next year is to go down to the winter league and get as many as bats as he can, catch as many innings as he can, just to knock the rust off and to get him back to playing to his accustomed pre-injury level."
As the Navegantes del Magallanes' backstop, the Venezuelan-born Flores had a .330/.368/.514 line with 16 doubles and eight HR's in 56 games and 218 plate appearances. Flores will be heading for Spring Training at 100% for the first time in years this February. Missing two years at such a young age could be viewed as a serious setback, but Jesus Flores didn't seem too interested in dwelling on the past when he was asked how it felt to get back to playing. "I'm still young, with a lot of talent too," Flores said last April, "I feel I can be an All-Star and I'm going to keep working for it."