WASHINGTON -- Jesus Flores walked slowly into the Nationals' clubhouse Wednesday afternoon with a bulky black brace wrapped around his left ankle. Washington's catcher had just watched the replay of his third-inning collision at the plate with Philadelphia second baseman Chase Utley on Tuesday night. But Flores was able to look at the bright side after watching Utley barrell down the third-base line and plow into him at the plate. "It can be worse," Flores said.
It certainly can. The 23-year-old underwent an MRI on Wednesday morning that showed his left ankle to be merely sprained, not broken. That news made Flores hopeful that he would return to action in "less than a week." Even if Flores is not quite ready at that point, the Nats should be OK behind the plate. Backup catcher Wil Nieves was Washington's starting catcher Wednesday night. The club also promoted catcher Luke Montz from Triple-A Columbus after Tuesday's game. In 111 games this season between Columbus and Double-A Harrisburg, Montz is hitting .271 with 16 home runs and 71 RBIs. Nevertheless, Flores is determined to return quickly, even after watching Tuesday night's collision. The Phillies had runners on first and third with two outs in the third when Nats pitcher John Lannan tried to pick Jayson Werth off first. Utley broke for home as Lannan's throw was going toward first baseman Ronnie Belliard. Utley crashed into Flores shoulder first at the plate and was tagged out. Ten tense minutes followed during which Flores remained on the ground while manager Manny Acta, head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz and assistant athletic trainer Michael McGowan attended to their injured catcher on the field. Flores was eventually transported to the clubhouse by ambulance. "We'll see how he feels day-to-day," Acta said. "But today, he's already walking and feeling better. You have to be cautious, because it's an ankle, and you have to squat on it. For not one, two, three innings, but for nine innings. We're going to take our time and make sure that Jesus is fine." Now that the team knows Flores' ankle is not broken, it can look on the bright side -- their young catcher was, after all, able to tag Utley out and hang onto the ball. Even Tuesday's home-plate umpire, Scott Barry, told Acta how impressed he was that Flores had held onto the ball after the collision. "Most of the guys learn how to do that -- how to protect the ball, how to apply tags and stuff like that, you get taught those kind of things," Acta said. "But it was impressive."
Flores, who has started 78 games behind the plate this year, wants to keep looking at the bright side, as well."I want to play," Flores said. "I want to finish my season strong."
Kevin Horan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.