You won’t find utility infielders much more different than the athletic, contact-hitting Luis Guillorme and the bulky, power-hitting Wilmer Flores. So why, as Guillorme battled Cardinals fire-thrower Jordan Hicks for about a month on Sunday afternoon, did his former Mets teammate Flores come to mind?
Because even though neither plays a ton, they both find a way to get you talking about them.
Guillorme has neither slugged a walk-off homer nor cried on the field. Yet when he set an (extremely) unofficial record Sunday, drawing a 22-pitch, fifth-inning walk that sparked the Mets to a 7-5 victory over the Cardinals at Clover Park, he added it to his surprisingly impressive list of lasting impressions.
Or do you not remember the bat catch?
“We were actually talking about it today in the dugout,” Luis Rojas said of Guillorme’s 2017 one-handed snaring of a flying bat (from a Marlins player) into the Mets’ dugout during spring training. “This kid is everywhere.”
Can he be at third base, in particular, if J.D. Davis doesn’t improve from last year? You know he’d catch everything in this vicinity and he clearly knows how to work a count at the plate. Ideally, though, like Flores, Guillorme probably would function best in smaller doses given the lack of pop in his bat.
“I’m here to do whatever role they want me in: Come off the bench late, start a game here or there,” Guillorme said. “I’m just here to help the team.”
Understood, neither this epic walk — the longest known at-bat since pitch counting began in 1988, as per Sarah Langs of Major League Baseball — nor his bat catch helped the team in the literal sense, as both occurred in games that don’t count (and the bat catch didn’t even count for anything within the game that didn’t count). So I’ll also submit that Guillorme’s one major league homer can be added to his oeuvre, for it was a heck of a round-tripper: August 10, 2019, Mets trailing by one in the eighth inning against the Nationals and Guillorme tied the game with a blast to right field off Fernando Rodney, as the Mets proceeded to win their eighth straight game.
Rojas, who managed Guillorme as a minor leaguer in 2014, 2016 and 2017, pointed out that Guillorme won South Atlantic League Most Valuable Player honors in 2015 despite hitting zero homers thanks to ranking second in hits (142) and batting average (.318), and fourth in on-base percentage (.391).
Low-key, high-impact, and that brings us back to Sunday. The day’s starting second baseman, Guillorme began the game by diving to his right to grab a grounder by speedy Cardinal (and Horace Mann School product) Harrison Bader, throwing him out in time. Then, in the fifth, he led off and fell behind 0-and-2 immediately before the fun really started: Two fouls, ball one, six fouls, ball two, seven fouls, ball three, one last foul and, with the Mets players beside themselves in the dugout and the fans on site as fired up as a Grapefruit League crowd gets, ball four. Poor Hicks, facing his first hitter, left the game, as St. Louis skipper Mike Shildt summoned a trainer to provide cover for violating the three-batter rule.
“By pitch eight, I think everyone was getting into it a little more,” Rojas said.
“I’m just happy I ended up with the walk, because if I had gotten out, that would’ve been not fun for me, all that work for nothing,” said Guillorme, who looked better at the plate last year with a .333/.426/.439 slash line. “It’s pretty cool.”
Asked to pick his favorite spring training highlight, Guillorme said, “I think the bat catch is always going to top everything, honestly, at this point.”
That nevertheless leaves plenty of room for other moments. This guy just has a knack, it seems. Reminds me of another guy much different, only similar, who gets greeted with a heartfelt “Wilmer!” every time he sets foot at Citi Field.