Mar. 3, 2012; Kissimmee, FL, USA; Washington Nationals Jesus Flores (26) hits a single against the Houston Astros at Osceola County Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE
Before Washington Nationals' skipper Davey Johnson took over on the bench and before he was an advisor to D.C. GM Mike Rizzo, he was a consultant to former Nats' general manager Jim Bowden, for whom he'd managed in Cincinnati when both were still with the Reds. In his role as a consultant for Bowden, Johnson helped with scouting and was one of three people (along with former manager Manny Acta) and former minor league manager John Stearns with ties to the New York Mets' organization who recommended that the Nationals select a then-22-year-old Jesus Flores in the '06 Rule 5 Draft. The 6'1'', 210lb Venenezuelan catcher was coming off a .266/.335/.487 season with Class-A St. Lucie in the Mets' system in which he'd hit 32 doubles and 21 HR's in 120 games and 480 plate appearances.
"'Manny, Davey and John think of Flores as an everyday catcher in the big leagues someday,'" then-GM Jim Bowden told MLB.com's Bill Ladson at the time in an article entitled, "Nats tab three in Rule 5 Draft." Flores remained on the Washington Nationals' 25-man roster throughout the '07 season, posting a .244/.310/.361 line as a rookie and in his second year in D.C., the then-23-year-old claimed the starting job. Flores was the no.1 catcher on Opening Day in 2009, but a series of injuries which began with a stress fracture in his shoulder suffered on a foul tip in a May 8, 2009 game against the D-Backs led to the catcher missing most of the '09 and all of the 2010 season.
Given an opportunity to establish himself at the major league level again last year when Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez missed significant time with injuries, a 26-year-old Flores had a .209/.253/.314 line with six doubles and one home run in 30 games and 91 scattered at bats as Wilson Ramos' backup. Flores spent the winter catching for the Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional's Navegantes del Magallanes, putting up a .330/.368/.514 slash with 16 doubles and eight home runs in 56 games and 218 at bats.
This Spring, the now-27-year-old catcher had a three doubles and two home runs in 20 games and 51 at bats over which he had a .275/.327/.451 Grapefruit League line. Nats' skipper Davey Johnson told Washington Times' writer Amanda Comak this weekend that he'd planned on starting Flores for the first time this season in Sunday's series finale against the Chicago Cubs, "... but his desire to get Ramos in more of a groove at the plate overrode that plan." While Ramos is the clear no.1 this season, the manager did tell the Washington Times' reporter that, "... definitely will make sure Flores gets plenty of playing time."
The Nats' backup backstop will make his first start of the 2012 season, catching new Nats' right-hander Edwin Jackson in Citi Field against the Mets' franchise that originally signed Flores out of Venezuela back in 2002.