NEW YORK -- Barring an outfield acquisition also capable of playing first base, Wilmer Flores will be the primary backup to Lucas Duda at that position in 2016 for the New York Mets, manager Terry Collins said Tuesday.
Even with the additions of middle infielders Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker as starters, Flores still should see plenty of playing time. He can spell David Wright at third base as the Mets try to ensure the captain does not overdo things with his back. Flores also can play second base against some left-handed pitching since Walker hit only .237 with a .290 slugging percentage against southpaws last season. Flores also can be a complement to the lefty-hitting Duda at first base.
Flores has never appeared in the majors at first base, but he has manned the position 20 times in the minors, including 19 times as a starter.
Ruben Tejada also recedes to a backup role with Cabrera coming on board as the shortstop and Walker as the second baseman.
"We've certainly got to go into spring training and give Wilmer a chance to play around the infield a little bit more -- to put him at some different positions to where we can give guys days off," Collins said. "We're certainly aware that we've got to keep an eye on David and his workload. We've got to make sure Duda is rested up. There's got to be some spots where you're going to need a bat. And certainly Wilmer and Ruben are going to give us those opportunities to give guys days off."
Collins also indicated Tuesday:
The Mets interviewed two candidates on Tuesday for the coaching position that opened when Bob Geren took the bench coach job with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Collins reaffirmed that the addition to the staff will come from within the organization. The candidates should include Jon Debus, Bob Natal, Alberto Castillo and Pedro Lopez.
Wright is visiting back specialist Robert Watkins in Los Angeles this week. The Mets do plan to strategically rest Wright during the season, even if he wants to play full-time. "He's finding out what he has to do for the rest of the winter to get himself ready," Collins said about Wright's California visit. "So I think it's a little early to sit down with him and say, 'Hey, look, we only want you to play 135 games.' I just think that's unfair at this particular stage until we know how he comes out of the winter."
The Mets maintain dialogue with free-agent Bartolo Colon. "I know he wants to come back," Collins said. "I know there's talks with him going on. ... I hope they can get something done." Barring an outside acquisition to fill the fifth starter's slot until Zack Wheeler returns in June or July from Tommy John surgery, the candidates already in the system for the role are Sean Gilmartin and Logan Verrett, according to the manager. Collins did not mention Rafael Montero, but he presumably would be a factor, too. Montero would have to pitch exceedingly strongly in spring training, though, to overcome the stigma of spending most of last season on the disabled list with a nebulous shoulder injury. Montero is due to begin pitching for Escogido in the Dominican Republic in the next week.
Collins talked up the possibility of right-hander Jim Henderson being a factor in the bullpen. Henderson, who had 28 saves with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2013, signed a minor-league contract with the Mets on Dec.3. Henderson, 33, underwent shoulder surgery in 2014. Collins also mentioned Buddy Carlyle as a bullpen possibility. Carlyle re-signed on a minor-league deal.
Collins said he is not surprised by Michael Cuddyer's retirement, although he only learned a couple of days ago of the formal decision. "He and I talked that he was very concerned that his body was breaking down, and that he was having a tough time keeping it going," Collins said about a conversation shortly after the World Series. "I just said, 'Hey, look, let's just wait and see what's going on here.' You talk about a true professional, this guy knew when it's time. And the respect he has for the game of baseball, he said, 'Hey, it's time to get out.' A lot of guys would not have done it. They would have gone to spring training and had to sit on the DL and collect that money and not say anything. But that's not Michael Cuddyer."
Collins said "it would be nice" if the Mets could add one more significant bat. Minus Cuddyer, the Mets now could use a righty-hitting corner outfield bat in addition to a lefty-hitting complement for Juan Lagares in center field. "I'm not asking," Collins said. "I know that they're working to try to find some backup pieces that will help us out a little bit. Sandy [Alderson] brought it up the other day, and I think he's right: You're starting to look around the leagues, the way the game is played, and it's starting to be a platoon kind of game. But I know that they're certainly searching for a couple of more pieces."