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Some Thoughts on the Flores Injury

Let's suppose that the surgery performed today on the right shoulder of catcher Jesus Flores is a "success." (As opposed to say, "a calamity of stunning proportions.") And let's suppose that Flores's recovery follows a conservative timetable, meaning he rejoins the Nats sometime in mid-March 2010, six months from now. And let's suppose that Flores, at that point, deals with no further setbacks; his shoulder is strong, and he is again performing baseball activities, as well as all-purpose human being activities, without pain.

Even with that rosy scenario, I think the Nats still need a solid fall-back option at catcher. They have seen this year what things look like without Flores in the lineup. No matter how Flores progresses, two things must be taken under consideration here. First, Flores is looking like one of those players who just might be injury-prone. Second, by next year, his layoff will have been substantial, and who can really predict how all that time away has impacted his development.

GM Mike Rizzo, in his time running this organization, has shown a good eye for inventory-type signings, but catcher should now rise to a higher level. If catcher is at all comparable to quarterback, the Nationals now need, if not a starting-caliber catcher, at least an A-rate back-up. (They need a Jeff Garcia, not a David Carr.)

Since Flores's May 9 injury, the Nationals have depended on Josh Bard and Wil Nieves. That pair -- giving probably as much as it's capable of -- has combined for 447 at bats, five home runs, 53 RBI and a .244 batting average.

There's plenty of reason to think Flores can still be a centerpiece player in Washington's future. Sure, we have a Pavlovian reaction of despair and apprehension just upon seeing baseball's scariest nine letters -- "Dr. Andrews" -- but remember, labrum injuries are far, far worse for pitchers than position players. We've seen how debilitating these things can be for guys like Chad Cordero and Ryan Wagner. But Flores's career will not depend on a few mphs, or on the break of his cutter. Plenty of position players have dealt with labrum issues and recovered without problem. Though the injury didn't require surgery, Ryan Zimmerman last season had a partial labrum tear in his left shoulder.

But the Nationals simply need to be careful. Flores has never had more than 301 at bats in a season. There is still much to find out about him. Assuming he's a certain thing for 2010 would be foolish.

By Chico Harlan  |  September 16, 2009; 11:45 AM ET
 
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Comments

People are full of shock and horror about the injuries this year, but seriously, the handling of injuries has been much better this year than in 07 and 08.

Even with Z'nn and Stammen, our pitchers have been much more solid this year than the last two. last year, and especially in 07, pitchers were going down one after the other. And there wasn't much to choose from to replace them.

The fact that Flores has had multiple MRIs at many different stages is proof that they're being uber-conservative and staying on top of injuries. And it's not like Riggleman (or Rizzo) is dragging them onto the field by their hair. Flores badly wants to play, he says he's fine hitting, MRI shows nothing serious, let him play.

Plus they caught it pretty quickly, and in enough time to get him surgery and give him the max time to recover in the offseason.

After 07 and 08, this is not "snakebit" at all. These are just normal, in-season injuries that shouldn't be surprising at all.

Posted by: NatsNut | September 16, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

You might be right Chico however this is still a big blow to becoming a respectable organization. Imagine if the Marlins had an A-Rated catcher, believe me the Phillies would be in a dog-fight right now.

The Braves have McCann, the Mets have nothing and it shows, the Phillies have been lucky with Ruiz but when the batting order 1-7 is like it is, they could afford to have a Ruiz behind the plate. The Nats need a top rated catcher to move on, unless management enjoys 100 L seasons on a consistent basis. This is so frustrating because 1-6 is just strong for the Nats and since Flores has gone down we have seen night after night 7 and 8 just not getting it done with RISP. Rizzo, Just say no to Brian Schnider and his .220 roll over BA. Tired of Fan Favorites, leave that stuff to the Football Team, the Nats need ringers.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | September 16, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

The first thought which comes to me is that the Mets seem to have no plans to offer anything to Brian Schneider. Depending on what the free agent market for catchers is like this winter (but batting barely above the Mendoza Line in 2009, nearly 50 points below his career average, won't add many zeroes to the offers) and depending on how Schneider would feel about returning for one or two years as a backup, he might be a viable stopgap.

Posted by: greggwiggins | September 16, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Tippy, I was writing while you were and our positions seem diametrically opposite. I'll just expand on my remarks by saying I'm taking Schneider's pitch-calling ability into consideration as being at least as important as his batting.

Posted by: greggwiggins | September 16, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Is Flores a top-rated defensive catcher or handler of pitchers? Don't our pitchers also blow off HIS pitch calls and pitch whatever they want, as they've done for Nieves and Bard? If the answers are NO, then this is a problem. If not, i.e. he's NOT a top-rated defensive catcher and handler of pitchers whose pitch calls are followed by his young staff, then we'll just miss his pop on offense, but then again we already have a lot of that (except for hitting with men on base and driving in runs). I don't agree with Ray Knight when he says that this team needed Flores a lot this year. What it needed was a pitching staff that could deliver. And that can suddenly change next year.

Posted by: poncedeleroy | September 16, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Chico, I think catchers need their arms to throw out runners. I think you have to wait and see how this is going to affect his ability in that area. If he becomes a catcher that is easy to steal bases on, then he could become a defensive liability.

Posted by: periculum | September 16, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

BTW, where's the omniscient, always negative, the downer of downers, the crabby appleton of NJ, WashOut?

Posted by: periculum | September 16, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Back when Flores was healthy (and I'd actually bought a jersey with his name on it), I would laugh at my Mets-fan friends for their team's letting him go through the Rule 5 draft.

Now, I'm thinking about avoiding those same friends...

Posted by: Juan-John | September 16, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

A real shot for Solano and/or Rooney?

Posted by: periculum | September 16, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

@Periculum,

I have a life and don't need to write several hundred comments a day about a subject that I pretend to know everything about. Sound familiar. If not go look in the mirror.

Posted by: WashOut | September 16, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, on a 100 plus loss team the luxury afforded the Yankees of signing a veteran free agent catcher 'just in case' is really not an option for the Nationals.

This team needs much more urgent attention in the starting rotation and bullpen as well as the middle infield and corner outfield.

If the Nationals can sign a veteran defensive catcher with some postseason experience that would be great.

But you aren't going to trade or sign anyone of note at a difficult position to staff for low dollars.

Posted by: leopard09 | September 16, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

I tend to agree with leopard09. A better bullpen and a couple of good veteran starters will go a lot farther. There are only about 1/2 dozen or so catchers in MLB that are huge difference makers and even if one were available and willing to come to DC, I think the money would be better spent elsewhere.

Posted by: goexpos2 | September 16, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Before I would have thought a front of the rotation starter as the top priority and the bullpen next in line.

Now it looks like Rizzo isn't going to know what he has with Flores until the season starts as he won't be in game shape until end of April. This 3 to 6 months thing will be 6 months before Flores is able to start working out in my opinion unless the tear is so minor.

They are going to have to go real slow with Flores.

Victor Martinez is the only stud on the Free Agent list this year but his option will probably be picked up by the Red Sox. The pool of catchers is horrible with mostly over the hill re-treads.

Brian Schneider would work with Wil Nieves as a patch job and then hope Flores is back sooner than later and OK.

Otherwise I think the Nats have to hope Norris is the answer down on the farm and ready sooner than later and hope that stud Bryce Harper can play Catcher and 1st for the 2013 season.


Posted by: GoingGoingGone | September 16, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Got new posted, and this still seems relevant:


I remember a time when every one of Brian Schneider's RBI's had come on ground outs. He just is not a good hitter, and I don't think his behind the plate skills are that great anymore either. As for handling the pitchers, my view is that, like being a "good clubhouse guy," this talent is overrated. And I certainly hope we have seen the last of a starting rotation made up of five guys in their first and or second year where sacrificing a bat for that kind of talent might be justified.

I know lots of people have a soft spot in their hearts for him, but Brian Schneider, like Austin Kearns, should not be part of the 2010 Nats.

It certainly is disturbing that Flores' torn labrum may have occurred after August 12. Flores had the potential to be a huge star. Now he's a huge question mark. I feel for him, and for us.

Posted by: Section222 | September 16, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

I don't believe the faith in Flores is justified just yet. He has yet to exhibit the defensive skills needed in a front line catcher and this injury just magnifies the doubts. The Nats have many other pressing needs, and should harbor no illusions about the current lineup. Those that say the 1-6 hitters in the lineup are set are totally dead wrong.

Posted by: bendersx6 | September 16, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

You are still going to need a backup catcher. Wil Nieves can be your starter and Brian Schneider the backup until you know what you have with Jesus Flores.

It is slim pickins at Catcher this year as the Red Sox will certainly pick up the $7.7 mill on Victor Martinez.

Do you go with Varitek as doubtful he will return to the Red Sox. Keep in mind with his agent he will demand a sizeable price tag that does not justify what he can bring to the plate.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | September 16, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

As long as we mention Varitek, catchers, and offensive production, let's not forget to bring up the great Onion short:

"Outfielders Take Knee, Infielders Move In on New 'Jason Varitek Shift'"

BOSTON—As the 2009 baseball season progresses, major-league managers are defending against Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek by employing what they call the "Varitek Shift," a defensive maneuver in which infielders move up past the pitcher's mound and outfielders take a knee and relax. "It's very effective," Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told reporters. "If Jason makes contact with the ball, which is rare in itself, he usually hits slow dribblers that catch infielders by surprise because of how weak they're hit. So, by moving the infielders up, and having the pitcher rush home plate after the pitch has been thrown, [Varitek] has virtually no chance of reaching base. If runners are on when he comes up, we may have the outfielders cover first, second, and third to ensure a double or triple play." Gardenhire added that it doesn't matter if the switch-hitting Varitek bats right- or left-handed, as the shift is foolproof.

Posted by: Section506 | September 16, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

"Wil Nieves can be your starter and Brian Schneider the backup until you know what you have with Jesus Flores."

Why is Schneider any better than Josh Bard?

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | September 16, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

"@Periculum,
I have a life and don't need to write several hundred comments a day about a subject that I pretend to know everything about. Sound familiar. If not go look in the mirror.
Posted by: WashOut | September 16, 2009"

@WashOut,

Well "Crabby,

If logic were to prevail one could easily state that you appear to contradict yourself. Let me explain:

1. If you "have a life" and no time for this then where do you find the time to keep such close track of my comments, and their quantity?

2. If you "have a life" and better things to do you would not be worried about what I post, how many times I post, well, whether I post at all.

In Italy you are a person we would often refer to as a "fica naso". You are welcome to find the translation if you have anything relevant in that peanut you call a brain.

Posted by: periculum | September 16, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

"Why is Schneider any better than Josh Bard?"

That's one for Brian_ or BinM to answer I think.

Posted by: periculum | September 16, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

One problem with "Cots" is that they don't appear to do a good job of keeping up with where the players are currently located? They have Majewski in Washington and Bard in Boston?

Looks to me like another possible trade scenario?

Posted by: periculum | September 16, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Does Catcher 50 post anymore? Wd like to hear his thoughts on this worrisome situation.

Posted by: Section109 | September 16, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

I don't think Brian Schneider would make the Bard blunder baserunning error that was made last night.

They are probably about the same in offense but Brian could handle the young pitchers better IMHO.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | September 16, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

I think Schneider makes sense for the reason GoingGoingGone said: handling pitchers. As for "the money would be better spent elsewhere," they've got enough money to go around, as Bos has pointed out before.

Posted by: baltova1 | September 16, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Two Words: Bryce Harper

Posted by: jb7041986 | September 16, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Bard is a terrible, terrible catcher. No knocks to his attitude, the guy's a trooper and I tip my hat to him. He is just terrible in his position.

Posted by: Section506 | September 16, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Free Agency is not the only way to acquire a player, you can also trade for one. There are several teams that might be willing to trade one of their top two catchers this winter including Arizona, the Angels, the Cubs, the Mariners, and the Rockies. Don't know what you'd have to give up, but Johjima, Matthis, and Snyder or Montero are likely to be available.

Posted by: natbiscuits | September 16, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

"Two Words: Bryce Harper"
more than likely WON'T play catcher.

Kind of like BinM's comments when I mention Mike Morse. 6'5 something 220+ playing shortstop or second base ...

Not sure Bryce has the physicality necessary to be an MLB catcher.

Posted by: periculum | September 16, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

"I don't think Brian Schneider would make the Bard blunder baserunning error that was made last night."

Of course not. Because Schneider would not have been on base in the first place.

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | September 16, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Peri - they said the same about Mauer who is 6'5" and had a thinner frame and Matt Wieters who is 6'5" with a wider frame.

Bryce Harper is so far away from finding his niche and position though as time will tell if he will be a 1st baseman, catcher, or outfielder.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | September 16, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Who says we're gonna draft Harper anyway?We're deciding his position already??? Periculum and Washout--go to your corners and take a timeout!!

Posted by: ripndot | September 16, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

I'm all for bringing back Schneider -- I think our pitchers need a catcher who can call a good game and we don't have that now. I think its no coincidence that the pitching was better in 2007 than in '08 and '09 -- and with less talent too. Bard can hit but is a liability defensively, and I don't think Nieves is good enough offensively, defensively or at handling the pitchers to be on the roster at all. He's too frantic behind the plate, and almost always the catcher behind the plate when the pitchers are second guessing their pitch selections.

I'd get Schneider plus someone else; hope Flores gets better and make a decision on the top two when and if that ever happens. Both catchers on the major league roster now are a liability.

Posted by: raymitten | September 16, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Hernandez pitching to Schneider on opening day 2010? It's like a re-do!

Posted by: Section506 | September 16, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Maybe the Molinas have another brother...

Posted by: AsstGM | September 16, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Raymitten has is right. The pitching was much better with Schneider behind the plate. Bard is a poor defensive catcher. Poor techniques when blocking pitches, etc. and Nieves has only been average this year. I like Flore's bat but he's only been average defensively. He will do but he's got to prove he can stay on the field. I think a good veteran defensive catcher is a must, either at the number 1 or number 2 spot.

Posted by: Sonny9 | September 16, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Crash Davis....

Posted by: AsstGM | September 16, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

AsstGM: Two Molinas are free agents this year.

Posted by: Section314 | September 16, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse

The Twins, José Morales would be a more than decent quick (or temporary) solution for the Nats. He's an above average defensive catcher and is a switch hitter. Once Flores is back to game form, he would be a more than adequate backup for Jesus. He's also young enough (currently 26) to fit in the Nats long term plans.

Posted by: KenzAFan | September 16, 2009 7:46 PM | Report abuse

The Nats have a young man in minor league ball right now thats burning up the league. IS it possible that he could make the early jump to the majors like Flores?

The player '07 6th Round pick, catcher Derek Norris

Posted by: specialg7master | September 16, 2009 9:41 PM | Report abuse

If the Nats pursue a catcher in the off-season, be prepared to overpay. Like it or not, until proven otherwise, Washington is the last resort for free agents; a bad team in a market that's considered a baseball graveyard. (That's something I don't like saying, mind you, but it is the current perception.)

Posted by: VPaterno | September 16, 2009 10:07 PM | Report abuse

Hey VP

If the NATS can make a big splash with maybe a Orlando Hudson or Derrick Lee then maybe others will follow.

20 million off the books below

A.Kearns $9 Mil 2 seasons no production
D Young wasted 10 mil 2 seasons
R Balliard 8 Million 2 seasons
Estrada 5 Million never played
La Duca 5 Million terrible play
Scott Olson barely played
Hernandez,Gonzalez (Both needed to go)

Posted by: specialg7master | September 16, 2009 10:39 PM | Report abuse

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