Flores has gone 3-for-29 (.103) in the last nine games with four RBIs and eight strikeouts. Tuesday he went 0-for-4 with a pair of whiffs, including a strikeout in the bottom on the ninth with two outs and the winning run at second base.
Johnson has met a few times with the first-string backstop and believes the veteran is being too hard on himself for his offensive struggles. Johnson has been emphasizing to Flores how important his defense and handling of the majors’ most talented starting pitching staff is to the overall success of the franchise.
“I had a conversation with (Flores) earlier,” Johnson said. “He expects a lot of himself. He has gone through a little slump here. He is putting more pressure on himself than needs to be. He is outstanding behind the dish. He is catching the best staff in baseball.”
Johnson said he made sure Flores knew how important he was as an all-around player to the Nationals’ cause.
“(I told him) your importance is more important than what you do offensively, (so) quit grinding and punishing yourself as much as you do and just relax and try to enjoy it a little more,” Johnson said. “He certainly has the ability to hit and I am not worried about it. I am not as worried as he is. Hopefully, he will lighten up and relax and quit pressing.”
In the middle of May, catcher Sandy Leon’s major league debut lasted four innings when he suffered a high ankle sprain blocking the plate. It was certainly an unfortunate injury for the up-and-coming backstop, who was obviously thrilled with the opportunity to catch in the majors.
When the injury occurred, it really felt like Leon didn’t get a fair shake at the coveted promotion.
His second chance could come as early as Thursday. Johnson would not confirm the move but said that Leon will “probably” be called up to the majors, as catcher Jhonatan Solano has been nursing an oblique injury and is a candidate to go on the 15-day disabled list.
“He has an oblique strain,” Johnson reported. “We will probably be doing something with him after the game.”
It is likely Leon will get the call. Leon is back healthy and ready to go, having played several games since late June in the Nationals system. Leon played five games with short season Single-A Auburn from June 24 through 29 and has played at least a dozen games for Double-A Harrisburg since July 2.
Overall, Johnson said switching around the catchers is not a major issue because of the franchise-wide depth at the position.
“I have said before I like the depth of the catchers in this organization,” Johnson said. “It is second to none to any other organization.”