NEW YORK — Center fielder Abraham Almonte believes he’s identified the primary problem for his ongoing slump, which landed him (and his .248 on-base percentage) on the bench for the second time in three games.
It’s all in his head.
“I’m moving my head a little,” Almonte said. “I’m moving my head forward too quick, or my head is off to the side (at the wrong angle). We’re trying to figure out exactly what it is.
“Sometimes, it’s tough to see the ball the way I’m used to (seeing it). I think my swing is good, but I’m just not seeing the ball like I should.”
Yes, he’s studying tape and trying to make the necessary adjustments.
“I’m trying to stay as calm as possible,” he said. “I’ve been through this before. It seems it takes forever, but one day I’m going to get out of this slump. Then things are going to go the way they're supposed to go.”
Michael Saunders started Thursday in center field, but manager Lloyd McClendon said Almonte will return Friday to the lineup in Houston.
“I’m just trying to put him in more favorable match-ups,” McClendon said. “He just needs positive results. He’s working his tail off to try to get it straightened out. It’s just not happening right now.”
Pushing back Hernandez
Felix Hernandez’s career-long success at the new Yankee Stadium — 4-1 with a 1.18 ERA in six starts — wasn’t enough to convince McClendon to pitch his ace in Thursday’s series finale.
Instead, McClendon opted to push Roenis Elias and Hernandez back one day after heavy rains Wednesday forced a postponement. Elias shifted from Wednesday to Thursday; Hernandez now starts Friday in Houston.
“It gives him an extra day,” McClendon said, “and it also gives Elias an extra day. It just made sense. Felix has been taxed quite a bit. He’s pitched on regular rest for quite a while.
“It’s an opportunity to get him to where we need him to be. His last two outings have not been sterling outings, I think we’d all agree. This gives us a chance to freshen him up and get him back on the right track.”
Hernandez gave up nine runs (five earned) and 12 hits over 13 innings in his last two starts after yielding seven runs (six earned) and 18 hits over 28 1/3 innings in his first four starts.
Other pitching plans
The Mariners’ tentative pitching plans are now in place for the rest of the road trip after adjusting for a rainout, Hisashi Iwakuma’s projected return and a day/night doubleheader next Wednesday in Oakland.
Those plans include a one-day recall for right-hander Erasmo Ramirez from Triple-A Tacoma. He opened the season in the big-league rotation but was demoted to the minors after going 1-3 with a 6.75 ERA in five starts.
Right-hander Brandon Maurer will start Sunday’s series finale in Houston after Hernandez and Iwakuma pitch the first two games.
Chris Young and Elias will start Monday and Tuesday in Oakland before Hernandez returns in Wednesday’s day/night doubleheader. It’s not yet certain whether Hernandez will pitch the opener or the nightcap.
Ramirez is slotted for a one-day recall to start the other game under the 26th-player rule for doubleheaders.
The Mariners entered Thursday’s game with a 6-0 record after open dates (including Opening Day and rainouts)…Justin Smoak entered Thursday with a club-leading 15 RBIs; 11 have come with two outs…Robinson Cano is the only Mariner to start all 26 games. Smoak has played in all 26, but he entered one game as a defensive replacement.
Right-hander Emilio Pagan, 22, lowered his ERA to 0.75 by working a scoreless ninth inning Wednesday in closing out Lo-A Clinton’s 6-3 victory at Quad Cities.
Pagan has allowed one earned run in 12 innings over seven appearances while striking out 13 and walking one. He was a 10th-round pick in 2013 and made one scoreless appearance for the big-league club in spring training.
It was 12 years ago Friday — May 2, 2002 — that Mike Cameron powered his way into baseball history and led the Mariners to a 16-5 victory at Chicago.
Cameron became the 13th player in history to hit four homers in a game, and he did it in four consecutive at-bats.
The first two homers came in the first inning when he joined Bret Boone in becoming the first players to hit back-to-back homers twice in the same inning. The Mariners led 10-0 before the White Sox came to bat.
The Mariners open a three-game weekend series at 5:10 p.m. Pacific time Friday in Houston. Right-hander Felix Hernandez (3-1 with a 2.40 ERA) will oppose Astros righty Brad Peacock (0-2 and 5.95).
Root Sports will carry the game.