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Wilmer Flores has 'long' leash at shortstop

NEW YORK -- Wilmer Flores has six errors, but he is not on thin ice as the shortstop for the New York Mets.

General manager Sandy Alderson said Flores has “plenty of room” to work out of his defensive funk.

Alderson passionately defended Flores’ capabilities as a shortstop on Friday afternoon.

The GM noted that while Flores already has a half-dozen errors this season, those miscues largely have come on routine plays that he made at the major league level in 2014. So team officials staunchly believe the capability is there, despite Flores’ detractors.

The concern about Flores more commonly has been about his lack of range.

Alderson noted that Flores made only five errors in a half-season in the majors last year, including a modest four in 51 games at shortstop.

Flores’ sixth error of this season came Thursday. He failed to field a routine fourth-inning grounder, opening the door for a three-run inning against Jacob deGrom in the Washington Nationals’ series-opening win.

“We know he can catch the ball,” Alderson said. “The important thing right now is to make sure he understands we have confidence in his ability to catch the ball. He’s demonstrated it. This is not a hope and a prayer. He’s demonstrated it in the past. We know what limitations may exist at that position for him. This is not one of them -- or shouldn’t be one of them.

“The short answer is: Yes, he’s got plenty of room.”

Alderson suggested the scrutiny might be affecting Flores. Flores had a nearly identical fielding error on a ball hit to him on Wednesday in Miami.

“Look, he’s probably one of the most scrutinized players -- certainly locally here -- than any, at least in this sport,” Alderson said. “He’s a young kid. And you have to assume at some point, as stoic as he seems to be sometimes, or imperturbable, it affects him. If that’s the case, we’ve got to figure out a way to lessen that concern on his part.”

Manager Terry Collins said Ruben Tejada will start at shortstop on Saturday against left-hander Gio Gonzalez, but that was scripted before the series and was unrelated to Flores’ error in the series opener.

The manager spoke with Flores on Friday afternoon.

“I said, ‘The mentality you’ve got to have is: Hit the ball to me,’” Collins said. “… He’s had a couple of bad games and everyone wants to write him off. And I understand that due to the way we’re playing. But you’ve got to give him a chance. You’ve got to give him a legitimate chance.”

Collins said Flores simply took his eye off Thursday’s grounder, which the manager suggested is a combination of a mental and physical miscue.

Collins noted that Flores has a tendency to peek at the runner and take his eye off the baseball. The staff advised Flores to treat every runner “like it’s the fastest guy in the league” and just get rid of the baseball ASAP.

The bottom line: The Mets stopped using Flores at shortstop after the 2011 season in the minors before finally revisiting it last season because of a lack of other options. If they abandon using him at the position again, that's probably it for him as a shortstop in his career.

“Part of the development of a young player is to get him through these times, whether it’s mental or not,” Collins said. “… If this kid is going to be a big league player, he’s got to be able to get through some of these times. And therefore the leash has got to be long.”