Jesus Flores off to great start in winter ball

Nationals catcher Jesus Flores is playing for the Navagantes del Magallanes in the Venezuelan Winter League this year, as he’s done the past several seasons. And Flores is using the start of winter ball to help build his case for more playing time in 2012.

The 27-year-old is 11-for-18 in his first four games in Venezuela, having ripped two homers and driven in seven runs. And while it’s always a dicey proposition to put too much stock into winter results, Flores has succeeded in the majors before and certainly needs at-bats to get back to a point where he could again.

He hit .209 in 30 games with the Nationals this year, backing up Wilson Ramos after missing most of 2009 and all of 2010 with shoulder injuries. Flores vented about a lack of playing time on his Twitter account toward the end of the season, but in reality, with the year Ramos had (.267, 15 homers and 52 RBI in 113 games), Flores is going to have trouble prying away much playing time in the future. He could draw some trade interest this winter, though he might need more time to prove he’s healthy before he’ll get a starting job somewhere. A strong performance this winter, then, can only help him.

Eury Perez and Jhonatan Solano are both 3-for-10 in the Dominican Winter League, and Atahualpa Severino pitched a scoreless inning in his first appearance in the Dominican Republic. Right-handers Ryan Tatusko and Josh Wilkie are also pitching in Venezuela this winter.