TRENTON – From the optimism Slade
Heathcott displayed Saturday afternoon, it sounds like his absence from the
Thunder’s lineup won’t last more than a couple of games.
The center fielder was scratched
from Friday’s game with a stiff neck, which immediately raised some warning
flags because of how long infielder David Adams was out with a similar injury
just tight and stiff,” he said on Friday. “I guess there's been a couple of guys in the
past that's had some tightness turn into a lot more, and they didn't want it to
happen (with me). I shouldn't be on the DL, but we'll take it day by day and
he’s out, whether it’s a few days or a week, the primary center fielder in
Heathcott’s absence will be Ramon Flores, who, with Friday’s game included, has
61 games of experience at the position. Even so, Flores says he’s actually more
comfortable in center field than he is manning his traditional left field.
playing center field. Last year I was playing (there) in Tampa when Slade was
there. Last year, Slade played, one, two games in center field, then (he’d) DH,”
Flores recalled. “I like and feel comfortable in center field. I think I feel
more comfortable in center field than left field, because center field is
(easier) to play than the corners.”
Tony Franklin also has no qualms about sending Flores to center field for a few
games, though he did stress the need to get him a day off at some point.
that he’s very capable out there. I have no reservations or hesitations about
putting him out there,” he said. “The only problem with that is it’s going to
be hard to spell him – he hasn’t had a day off, he’s played in every game.
Fortunately we had the frost-out in Portland, which allowed everybody to get a
day, but that’s early in the season. That’s the only thing that I’m worried
about, is that he’s not going to have a whole lot of time off.
Flores sits, however, Franklin is confident he has the right mix of players to
fill the outfield. He also has Neil Medchill and Casey Stevenson, who manned
the corners on Friday night, and Shane Brown can be activated from the Staten
Island roster at any time. Kevin Mahoney and Jose Pirela would also be
think the versatility is much like last year’s club. It’s still there,” he
said. “We’ve got some viable candidates to go out there and play the outfield
if need be. We’ve got better options with those three guys out there. We’ve got
people to step in if need be.”