DETROIT—Abraham Almonte’s name was penciled at the top of the Seattle Mariners’ lineup for Tuesday’s game against the Detroit Tigers.
Just 15 games into his call-up from Tacoma, the 24-year-old rookie finds himself batting in the leadoff spot for Seattle.
If Almonte was excited or nervous about moving up in the order, it didn’t show. It seemed like an inevitability to him.
“That’s where I’ve hit for most of my career,” he said. “It’s normal to me.”
Almonte has gotten plenty of at-bats at the No.2 spot in the lineup. With Dustin Ackley getting a day off and Brad Miller hurt, Mariners manager Eric Wedge moved him up a spot.
“We’ve tried to keep him up top if we could because he’s been an action guy for us,” Wedge said. “He has a lot of energy. He’s shown us the short game and he’s driven the ball a little bit, too. So it’s nice to get him up there and get him some (at-bats).”
But don’t expect Almonte’s approach at the plate to be any different.
“I’m going to play the same way I’ve been playing because that’s the way I’m used to playing,” he said.
One of the ways Almonte is used to playing is by bunting as a means to get on first base. He’s easily the best bunter on the Mariners right now, which isn’t a huge compliment considering the team’s bunting woes.
Still, Almonte is a very good bunter because he works at it a lot.
“In Triple A, I worked on it every game of every homestand,” he said. “Twenty five minutes before (stretching), I would be outside bunting. It would be like 40 bunts to third base and 40 bunts to first base. I made it a part of my routine every day because it’s a big part of my game. Any way you give me a chance, I will put it down.”
Almonte also has a little power in his game. On Monday night, he belted his second homer — a solo shot to right field — since being called up.
“I’m just trying to hit the ball the right way when I get my pitch,” he said. “I’m not a power hitter, but if they give a me a pitch to hit in my zone, I can do damage. But I don’t really look for homers. I’m just looking to get on base and get things going.”
IBAEZ READY FOR 2014
At 41, Raul Ibañez has had a solid season for the Mariners.
He has played in 116 games, and with his solo homer against the Tigers on Tuesday, is hitting .252 with 28 homers and 63 RBI. Even if he put up most of the homers in the first half of the season, the success has Ibañez thinking about next season.
“Yeah, I want to play another year,” Ibañez said. “It’s not something I really dwell upon. It’s not something I mull over and lose sleep over because I’m in the moment right now. But yeah, if you asked me right now, I definitely want to play another year.”
Will it be with the Mariners? They signed him to a one-year, $2.75 million contract for this season. They wanted him to be a stable and positive clubhouse influence.
The goal was to have Ibanez’s maniacal work ethic and obsessive pregame preparation rub off on the young players on the roster. Ibanez’s presence has been beneficial, Mariners coaches and players said.
Seattle could bring him back for another year and hope to play him in more of a bench role, which he was supposed to be doing this season.
Injuries and underperformance from other players forced him to play more in left field than expected. While his numbers have decreased in the second half, Ibañez said he believes it isn’t because of fatigue.
“Physically I feel I can play for, I don’t want to sound wrong, but kind of until I want to — physically,” he said. “Mentally it’s a grind, and that part becomes harder as you get older. Staying locked in for six months in a row becomes harder, but I feel I can play this game physically for a while ... That doesn’t mean I will, but I feel like I can.”
RAINIERS’ SNOW SUSPENDED
Tacoma Rainiers pitcher Forrest Snow has been suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball due to a second positive test for a drug of abuse according to the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
Unlike the testing done in the major leagues, which focuses only on performance enhancing drugs, the minor leagues do test players not on the 40-man roster for recreational drug use.
Snow, who grew up in Seattle, pitched at the University of Washington before being drafted in the 36th round by the Mariners in 2010. He spent parts of this season with Double-A Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma. In 19 appearances (18 in relief, one start) with the Rainiers, he posted a 4-0 record with a 2.92 ERA.
In 40 innings, he struck out 43 batters with 17 walks.
Snow, who is active on Twitter, posted a tweet Thursday that simply said, “I’m sorry.”
It will be an outstanding pitching match-up on Wednesday at Comerica Park.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (12-6, 2.87 ERA) will get the start for Seattle, while Detroit will use right-hander Justin Verlander (13-11, 3.66), the 2011 American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner. First pitch is set for 4:08 p.m..Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish