Johnson confident Flores can deliver as best backup catcher in the league

Nationals manager Davey Johnson has felt since the beginning of spring training that Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores would share catching responsibilities. Ramos would get the lion’s share of the starts, but Flores would also play more than on a token basis.

The Ramos/Flores catching depth is a big strength for the Nationals this season. Both players are healthy and both are capable of breaking out a little bit. Both are capable of hitting home runs. Both call great games and have excellent rapport with the pitchers.

It is a big year for Flores. The 27-year old Carupano, Venezuela, native played 56 games at Triple-A Syracuse last season and just 30 games with the Nationals, after missing all of 2010 with a major right shoulder injury. For the first time since 2009, Flores starts the season with the big club 100 percent healthy.

“He had a rough year last year,” Johnson said. “He showed signs of the Jesus Flores (before the injuries). He is a heck of an all-around player. I think the winter league was outstanding for him. He posted some great numbers.”

During one particular span, Flores hit .397 over 18 games with three homers and 14 RBIs for Navegantes del Magallanes in Venezuela over the winter. He followed that effort up with a solid spring training that was duly noted by Johnson.

“He was outstanding in spring training,” Johnson said. “Wilson (Ramos) is arguably one of the best catchers in the league. To have a backup that is a candidate to be a No. 1 catcher is outstanding. I catched Ramos the first three games. I wanted to get Jesus in there and he had a great game. And then we had a day game after a night game so I got him back in there.”

So, Saturday, day game after a night game, Flores gets the call. Johnson reiterated that Ramos was still his No. 1 catcher and he was very comfortable with Flores as his second string catcher.

But because Flores is so good, he will definitely get more than one start every seven games. You can’t leave that bat on the bench.

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