Giants manager Gabe Kapler also associates Flores with heartbreak, but in a different way. Kapler saw plenty of Flores in his first year managing the Phillies in 2018, and he’s well aware of the 28-year-old infielder’s propensity for coming up with huge hits.
“I have some experience with him, being in the other dugout,” Kapler said Thursday. “A couple years ago, in 2018, he had a walk-off home run in Game 1 of a doubleheader off Victor Arano at Citi Field that broke our hearts. We've seen him do damage in big situations.”
Kapler is hoping that trend continues with the Giants, who officially signed Flores to a two-year, $6.25 million deal on Wednesday. It marked the first multi-year contract handed out by Farhan Zaidi, who took over San Francisco’s baseball operations department in November 2018.
“I actually didn’t know that,” Flores said. “But it’s definitely an honor. Anytime a team wants you, you feel happy about it.”
Flores said he’s willing to play all over the infield, though the Giants expect him to start primarily on the right side of the diamond, likely helping to limit first baseman Brandon Belt’s exposure to tough left-handed pitchers this season. Flores, a right-handed hitter, has a lengthy track record of crushing lefties, batting .337 with a .982 OPS and seven home runs over 109 plate appearances against southpaws in 2019.
“Independent of Brandon, he gives us a really good option at first base and second base as well,” Kapler said. “We'll explore every possibility to get him in the lineup.”
Flores said he was drawn to the Giants due to their recent championship history and their willingness to give him the extra security afforded by a multi-year deal. Non-tendered by the Mets in November 2018, Flores lingered on the open market until the D-backs signed him last January. He became a free agent again this offseason when Arizona declined his club option in October.
“Last year, I went through free agency, and it was a little tough,” Flores said. “This year was, too, because I signed late. It’s kind of a relief to get a multi-year deal. Next year, I’ll know where I’m going, so it will be better.”
A “Friends” superfan, Flores confirmed that he intends to continue using the sitcom’s theme song, “I’ll Be There For You,” as his walk-up music this season. He still watches the show every night, even after Netflix pulled the entire catalog off its streaming service at the end of last year.
“I have all the DVDs, so don’t worry about it,” Flores said, smiling.
García upbeat after surgery
Seeking to get a head start on the 2020 season, Aramís García flew to the Dominican Republic this offseason to log more catching reps with the Toros del Este. He hoped the experience would increase his odds of winning the backup job that was vacated by Stephen Vogt, but the winter didn’t unfold as he had hoped.
García ended up aggravating a right hip injury, not only cutting short his winter-ball stint but also jeopardizing his 2020 season with the Giants. After an unsuccessful attempt to rehab the injury, García underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip last week. He is expected to miss six to eight months, a timetable that could allow him to return late this year if his recovery goes according to plan.
The 27-year-old said he began to experience discomfort in his hip last summer, though he managed to stay on the field with the help of an anti-inflammatory and other treatment. The pain worsened when he arrived in the Dominican Republic, however, intensifying to the point where he had trouble lifting his leg.
“I never had pain like that on a baseball field before,” García said. “I knew it wasn’t going to end well.”
Kapler went out of his way to observe Johnny Cueto’s first bullpen session of the spring on Thursday and said he was impressed with what he saw from the 33-year-old right-hander.
“He's in great shape,” Kapler said. “Equally important for me is how well he controls his body, and how he changes up the pace of his delivery. And then he's able to maintain his command, whether it's a quick pitch, or it's a pause at the top of his delivery or just his normal delivery. He's able to control his body well and repeat with his release point. The other thing that I found really fascinating is the pace of his ‘pen. It's almost a game-like intensity and pace, even though he’s not trying to throw the ball especially hard. The pace is crisp. There's intensity and intent in what he's doing.”