Almonte confident and excited
Abraham Almonte wasn’t nervous about his first major-league opening day. He wasn’t anxious about starting as the Mariners’ leadoff hitter and center fielder.
Seattle Times staff reporter
ANAHEIM, Calif. – Abraham Almonte had no trouble sleeping Sunday night.
Most people in his situation would have tossed and turned and fretted. But not Almonte. He wasn’t nervous about his first major-league opening day, when he went 2 for 5 and knocked in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning.
He wasn’t anxious about starting as the Mariners’ leadoff hitter and center fielder.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” Almonte said. “I was so excited. But I got good sleep last night.”
Almonte’s ease was due to several reasons. He does have some big-league experience. He appeared in 25 games in September last season, hitting .264 (19 for 72) with four doubles, two homers and nine runs batted in.
That month’s worth of games gave him a sense of belonging.
“Right now, this is not new to me,” he said. “If today would have been my first game in the big leagues and on opening day, then I’d be nervous. I kind of know this now. I know what to do and what to expect.”
He also knows that manager Lloyd McClendon has faith in his ability to play center field and hit at the top of the order. McClendon stayed with Almonte in both spots all spring training — regardless of the results. Almonte hit just .178 (13 for 73) this spring with a .256 on-base percentage.
“It made me feel more comfortable,” Almonte said of McClendon’s reassurances. “Early in spring training, I didn’t feel that good at the plate, and I didn’t look that good. But he always had the confidence in me to keep me in that spot. It gives you confidence back when you see that someone believes in you.”
Bullpen roles defined
The Mariners know whom they will call on in the ninth inning if they have a lead — closer Fernando Rodney. McClendon has decided on the pitchers he will use in the key setup innings leading up to Rodney.
“I think for the most part you’ll see (Charlie) Furbush and (Tom) Wilhelmsen in the seventh and eighth inning,” he said.
McClendon also mentioned Danny Farquhar as another reliever who could be used in those innings.
Both Wilhelmsen and Farquhar took turns as the team’s closer last season. Wilhelmsen started off last season as the closer and was dominant for almost two months. But a bad series in Cleveland in June shook his confidence and he was never quite the same. He lost his job and was sent to Class AAA Tacoma for an extended stint to find his mechanics. Farquhar, who was called up from Class AAA early in the season, assumed the closing duties in August. He saved 16 games in 18 opportunities to end the season.
Furbush was one of the Mariners’ better relievers at times. He will be the left-handed specialist in those seventh and eighth innings. Lefties hit just .173 against him last season.
• Vladimir Guerrero signed a one-day contract to retire with the Angels on Monday. Guerrero also threw out the first pitch, and new Angels hitting coach Don Baylor had to be helped off the field after breaking his right leg while catching it. Two Angels staff members helped Baylor off the field. The former Rockies and Cubs manager will have surgery Tuesday on his right femur.
• With about two weeks left in spring training, McClendon moved Brad Miller up to the No. 2 spot in the order and moved Kyle Seager down in the order to sixth. It stayed that way on opening day and will likely continue as the season goes on. Why?
“I like speed at the top of the order,” McClendon said. “It’s twofold. I think Kyle has the ability to drive in runs. I think he’s going to be a run producer and I wanted to put him in a spot where he gets more opportunities to drive in runs.”
Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @RyanDivish.