By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
Mariners center fielder Abraham Almonte said he believes he’s identified the primary reason for his ongoing slump, which landed him (and his .248 on-base percentage) on the bench Thursday 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. 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 in center field against the Yankees on Thursday, but McClendon said Almonte will return to the lineup today in Houston.
“I’m just trying to put him in more favorable matchups,” 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 each back a day after heavy rains Wednesday forced a postponement. Elias shifted from Wednesday to Thursday. Hernandez starts today 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 past two starts after yielding seven runs (six earned) and 18 hits over 28? innings in his first four starts.
Other pitching plans
The Mariners’ pitching plans are in place for the rest of the road trip after adjusting for a rainout, Hisashi Iwakuma’s return and a day/night doubleheader next Wednesday in Oakland.
Those plans include a one-day recall for right-hander Erasmo Ramirez from 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 RBI, 11 coming 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 Class 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.
The Mariners open a three-game weekend series at 5:10 p.m. PDT today in Houston. Right-hander Felix Hernandez (3-1 with a 2.40 ERA) goes up against Astros righty Brad Peacock (0-2 and 5.95).