Flores Quietly Awaits His Turn In L.A.

Ever since Paul DePodesta has been the general manager of the Dodgers, he's made a practice of collecting players that he knew and obviously respected from his days with the Oakland A's. Four of those are up with the Dodgers now -- Jason Grabowski, Olmedo Saenz, Mike Edwards and Mike Rose. There's another who, in almost a quiet fashion, is making a statement that he's worthy of joining that group -- Jose Flores.

Flores celebrated his 32nd birthday on June 28 doing what he has been for going on 12 years now; that is, playing efficiently in the minors. As a matter of fact, he's doing it even better than he did before, which in a way is what a guy in his position has to, for he's been unheralded and often unappreciated for all of those years.

The tendency is to believe that he's one of those who have been signed out of the Dominican, or, maybe, Venezuela or Mexico. Not so. True, he's of Latin extraction but he was born in New York City, went to high school there, then the University of Texas from which he was drafted by the Phillies back in 1994. In the 34th round so you know they weren't expecting much.

He's hung around because he's delivered almost every place he's been and he's been in a lot of towns in those succeeding years. Several systems, too. The Dodgers are the eighth organization to employ him over that time but only the second to grant him any big league exposure. The A's were the first, finally calling him up after he had labored for nine seasons and 861 games down below.

That was in 2002 when he managed to get in seven games for Oakland without getting a hit. He spent the next year in Sacramento, then was peddled to L.A. at the end of spring training 2004. A .313 year at Las Vegas gained him a few more brief moments up above, nine games with the Dodgers in September when he managed his first big league base hit in four at bats.

The Dodgers chopped him from the 40-man roster over the winter; however, they thought enough of him to offer him a minor league contract with a spring training non-roster invitation. He accepted, not surprisingly didn't make the club so here he is for an encore performance with the 51's.

He's definitely learned something about hitting over those years for right now he's at .323, the best yet for a career .275 man. It's the third year in the past four that he's been over .300, the kind of contributions that keep him around. Don't expect the long ball; he's hit only one out so far and his seven last year was a career high. He can do just about everything else, though.

He's the starting shortstop -- not flashy, just rock steady, having committed only six errors thus far. He's also adept at third or second if called upon there. Earlier in his career, he played the outfield though so far the Dodgers haven't called upon him in that capacity.

Other infielders have been called up since the season opened and others like Willie Aybar and Nori Nakamura are standing in line hoping, too. Flores, however, is making a statement that he could produce if called upon.

Not spectacular, yes. There's a lot to be said, though, for a guy who delivers steadily without fanfare -- the kind who gets to a ground ball and throws it efficiently to first or produces a base knock often enough. If L.A. needs a man like that, Flores has glove and bat at the ready.