With the New York Mets sending Wilmer Flores back triple-A to get consistent at bats after failing to secure the everyday shortstop job in the big leagues, Ruben Tejada is left standing as the Mets’ everyday shortstop, at least for the time being. With the Mets have no true backup at the position, Tejada shouldn’t worry about whether or not he’ll be in the lineup on a daily basis, but he still has much to prove.
Tejada got off to a terrible start in 2014 following a disastrous 2013 season, but he has steadily improved throughout the course of the season. Oddly enough, Tejada started playing better when Flores was first called up with the intention of getting a majority of the playing time at shortstop. But the two ended up splitting time there with Flores struggling and Tejada playing better. The timing may have been a coincidence, but the Mets should certainly fear the possibility that Tejada will fall back into a slump now that there’s no competition for him and his job isn’t being threatened.
Of course, there’s a chance that Tejada just needed a month or so into the season to get going, as his offense started to show improvement in May while his slash line thus far in June is .254/.356/.333, which is far from spectacular but certainly acceptable. Tejada has also been a lot more impressive and consistent defensively than he was last year and early in the season, which has been nice to see after all of his issues last season.
The test for Tejada for the immediate future is whether or not he can continue to play well now that he doesn’t have to worry about keeping his job. He had little competition for the starting job in spring training which led to his slow start, so he has to prove he can perform without a player like Flores breathing down his neck.
The Mets know that Tejada is capable of playing much better than he has over the last year and a half, as he had a solid 2012 season in his first full season in the big leagues. But Tejada needs to prove that he can still be that kind of player. He’s made small steps toward doing that over the past month, but he still has a long way to go.