In one sense, Jesus Flores' return to the majors was quicker than he expected it to be. He was sent to Triple-A Syracuse to start the year after Wilson Ramos won the second catcher's spot. But short of one workout in Syracuse, he never actually played there; the Chiefs started the season on the road and hadn't played their home opener yet when Flores got called up.
He got a chance to see the ballpark. He saw snow for the first time in his life, and stuck his hand out to catch the falling flakes in his hand - "That was cool," Flores said - but he played five games on the road, and then he was gone.
But in another sense, Flores' wait to return to the majors after getting hit by a foul tip in May 2009 was interminable, so long that he questioned if he'd ever make it back. The stress fracture in his shoulder led to a torn labrum after he started a throwing program, and when he came to spring training last year after shoulder surgery in September 2009, his arm was so weak he had to have bullpen catchers throw back to the pitchers he was catching.
He missed the entire season, spending most of the year in a holding pattern of throwing programs and simulated games in the Florida heat, and though he came into the spring healthy, he still wasn't all the way back; the Astros expressed interest in trading for him, but passed on him because his throwing power wasn't there yet. It still might not be 100 percent, but Flores is here more than anything for his bat.
The team needs a right-handed hitter off the bench with Ryan Zimmerman on the disabled list, and they went to Flores because he represented the best chance to add some power. He said his swing feels good, though he started the year 2-for-13 at Syracuse, and though Flores also said "catching is fine right now," the Nationals probably won't have too many occasions to use him there.
"He probably will be mostly a pinch hitter," manager Jim Riggleman said. "We'll get him a little work at first base, too, in case I needed to put him over there. But assuming (Michael) Morse is healthy and not sick, that shouldn't come up too much."
But after the road he had to take, Flores owes no one an apology for being here. Whatever the reason, and for however long it lasts, he's back in a big league clubhouse right now. That's enough for him.
"I never thought I'm going to be back here again, and now, I'm really excited to be on a big league team again," Flores said. "I feel good to be part of the team, and I'm going to work hard to help the team again.