By Todd Dybas The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Finally, on Sunday, he rested.
Seattle Mariners center fielder Abraham Almonte had gone 23 games, 98 at-bats and numerous outfield adventures without a break. He sat down and took a breath Sunday.
April has been a struggle for the young leadoff hitter. He’s hitting just .204 and striking out with high frequency. Entering Sunday, Almonte’s 36 strikeouts were tied for the major league lead with Pittsburgh’s Starling Marte.
“Not good,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said of Almonte’s first month. “But, he’s in a boat with a lot of other guys. Because he’s in the leadoff spot, everybody wants to make a big deal about Almonte. We’ve got a lot of guys not hitting.
“We’ve got guys that should be hitting, and have had time in the big leagues, not hitting. So, I don’t want to put everything on this guy’s shoulders and say our offensive woes are because of Almonte. That’s just not the case.”
Almonte, 24, hit .264 last September after he was called up to the majors for the first time. He picked up a hit in five of his first six games this season, but has plummeted since. The most troubling aspect for the speedy Almonte is his inability to put the ball in play.
Like McClendon, Almonte expects he will snap out his funk.
“What I feel right now, it’s one of those tough times I have to fight through in the season,” Almonte said. “If I stay patient, I think I can do a good approach. I’ve been doing that before.”
Also, as McClendon alluded to, Almonte is not the only one struggling. Shortstop Brad Miller — like Almonte called up last season and put at the top of the lineup this season — had the day off Sunday, too. He’s hitting .174 and has 26 strikeouts. He’s walked just twice.
“If we’re going to analyze this and speak truthful about it, then let’s analyze it and speak truthful about it,” McClendon said. “We’ve got a lot of guys not doing the job.
“The fact is, we are what we are and we have what we have. We have to make them better. We can talk about all the stats, we could put spin on stats, all of it’s (bad word). It’s all about winning the game. If you win the game, everything’s fine.”
Almonte was acquired from the New York Yankees in a straight-up trade for reliever Shawn Kelley. He’s hoping to get it going against the team he originally signed with when the Mariners head to New York to start a three-game series in the Bronx on Tuesday.
“Maybe three hits?” Almonte said with a smile.
Erasmo Ramirez was hit hard in his Sunday outing for the Class A High Desert Mavericks. Ramirez pitched six innings, and allowed five earned runs on eight hits. He struck seven and gave up two home runs.
Ramirez was sent to High Desert to keep him on his regular rotation. Brandon Maurer started in his place Sunday for the Mariners.
The next stop for Ramirez is up in the air. Hisashi Iwakuma came out of Sunday’s rehabilitation start with the Rainiers feeling good, which makes him a logical choice to start Friday at Houston.
Walker to throw
Taijuan Walker (15-day disabled list, shoulder) is expected to play catch from 60 feet today, then again Tuesday from the same distance if all goes well.
Walker, who making rehabilitation starts in the minors when he was shut down after experiencing tightness and pain in his right shoulder April 16.
Justin Smoak extended his hitting streak to five games Sunday. He’s hitting .294 in that stretch. … Robinson Cano pushed his hitting streak to seven games. He’s hitting .423 over that time and .301 on the season, the only Mariners regular above the .300 mark. … Corey Hart has reached base in 11 consecutive games. … Seattle won a home series against the Texas Rangers for the first time since Sept. 21-23, 2012. … After getting outscored 16-0 in the eighth inning in the first 21 games, Seattle has outscored opponents 7-1 in the eighth during the past three games.
The Mariners are off today before beginning a three-team, 10-day road trip against the New York Yankees on Tuesday. Chris Young (0-0, 3.50) will face CC Sabathia (3-2, 4.76) Tuesday at 4:05 p.m. at Yankee Stadium.
Seattle will play three games in the Bronx, three games in Houston, and three games in Oakland before returning home.