HOUSTON — Center fielder Abraham Almonte’s ongoing struggles finally persuaded the Mariners that he requires a remedial tour at Triple-A Tacoma to get turned around.
Almonte, 24, was optioned to the Rainiers after Sunday’s 8-7 victory over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. The move came with him mired in a 4-for-37 slump that dropped his average to .198.
“I told him, `I still believe in you,’” manager Lloyd McClendon said, “`but you need to go play. And if you play well, you’ll be back.’”
The Mariners plan to recall outfielder James Jones from Tacoma, where he is batting .313 with a .382 on-base percentage in 20 games.
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Jones is expected to join the Mariners in time for Monday night’s game at Oakland and draw regular duty in center field. That will likely push Michael Saunders to right field.
Jones, 25, has only limited experience above Double-A, but McClendon believes he projects as a leadoff hitter and possesses the necessary tools to be an impact defensive player.
Almonte’s demotion came two days after he committed two errors in Friday’s 5-4 loss to the Astros in 11 innings.
“I’ve just got to keep working and get my good feeling back at the plate,” he said Sunday after learning he was optioned to Tacoma. “Then everything will be OK.”