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Wilmer Flores taking advantage of an opportunity after a quiet couple of weeks

Flores taking advantage of opportunity after quiet stretch originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO — When Gabe Kapler’s pregame session with reporters on Saturday started with a question about Wilmer Flores, the Giants manager smiled. It was interesting timing, he said, because he had just called the veteran infielder in to check on how he was doing.

Flores had started just two games since May 21, and on Friday night, Kapler put him in a tough spot. He sent Flores up to hit against right-handed reliever Yennier Cano, a potential All-Star who has one of the heaviest sinkers in the game and entered with 30 strikeouts to one walk. Flores, to his credit, drew a walk.

“He’s been getting at-bats against some of the toughest relievers in the game,” Kapler said before Saturday’s game. “And when you’re not playing regularly and your swing is not exactly where you want it to be, I can speak from personal experience that that is as challenging as any job in the sport.”

It might not get any easier in the coming weeks and months.

Casey Schmitt’s emergence has soaked up a lot of infield at-bats, along with the staff’s desire to take a long look at Brett Wisely. LaMonte Wade Jr. and JD Davis are playing like All-Stars on the corners. Joc Pederson could return to the DH spot as soon as Sunday, and Thairo Estrada is not far behind.

There simply aren’t many at-bats right now for Flores, who led the team in them last year, but he certainly took full advantage of his opportunity on Saturday night.

Flores started at designated hitter and Kapler, in a sign of how much he still trusts Flores’ preparation, hit him cleanup. Flores’ two-run single broke the game open and he had his first three-hit game since mid-April, helping the Giants to a 4-0 win over the Baltimore Orioles.

“Really nice, really rewarding,” Kapler said. “Totally unsurprising.”

It’s not easy to sit for most of two weeks and then try to find your timing in big spots, but the Giants know Flores is as prepared as any player in the big leagues. That doesn’t mean any of this is natural for him.

“I’m always ready to play,” Flores said. “I take advantage of any opportunity. There are things that I can’t control. What I can control is just staying ready.”

Flores said he has tried to come in with the right attitude every day, knowing that opportunities would come at some point. Behind the scenes, the Giants haven’t seen any change.

“There’s not a better professional out there than Wilmer,” said Alex Cobb, who took a shutout into the eighth. “He goes about his business every single day, the same routine, puts all the work he can possibly put in in every room in this clubhouse to make sure that when Gabe calls on him that he’s ready to go. Since I got here, everybody has said what unbelievable at-bats he puts together.

“I didn’t really know much about him but getting to watch him and getting to see how he works counts and is on every pitch, it’s impressive, because I know how difficult it is to remove yourself from a stretch of games and then try to jump back in and hit 95 mph plus velocity and keep your timing.”

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Obviously, he puts in all the work behind the scenes.”

The dip in playing time wasn’t all about prioritizing others. Flores had a .600 OPS in May, and that cold stretch coincided with Schmitt’s arrival and Davis taking over as the everyday third baseman.

The Giants knew Flores would stay ready, though, and they’ll certainly be a lot better off if they have another right-handed weapon to use as they mix and match. A year removed from hitting 19 homers and playing in 151 games, Flores is dealing with a different situation, but he’s trying to roll with the punches.

“You’re not always going to get the results you want, but you’ve just got to trust the process,” he said. “Today I got some good pitches to hit, and I didn’t miss them.”

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