Mariners Insider

Friday’s line-ups, official game notes, updated stats vs. the Houston Astros

Post by Ryan Divish on Aug. 30, 2013 at 1:34 pm with 7 Comments »
August 30, 2013 2:56 pm


8-30 -- lineup

Taijuan Walker makes his big league debut tonight with the Houston Astros. But he won’t be alone. Outfielder Abraham Almonte, who was called up today, is in the line-up as well, starting in right field and batting eighth.

Almonte caught a 6 a.m. flight out of Sea-Tac this morning to get to Houston. He was removed in the seventh inning of yesterday’s game in Tacoma. After the game, he was told my Tacoma manager John Stearns  that he was going to the big leagues. The emotional Stearns was, well, emotional when telling Almonte. He stopped short of tears.

“Almost,” Almonte said. “We’ve got a good relationship and he’s a good guy. He came to me and gave me a hug and said, ‘Congrats, you’re going to the big leagues.”

When Almonte was traded to Seattle from the Yankees in the offseason, he looked at it as an opportunity.

“I feel like I have more chance here to make the big leagues, like right now,” he said. “Here I am.”

So what’s he going to do now that he’s here?

“I’m a fast runner, I can play defense and swing the bat once in a while,” he said. ““Just do what I do. I’m still the same person. I just need to be the same guy.”

That guy uses his speed to make things happen. He’s a hitter who sprays the ball over the park. He’s not a great defensive outfielder with his speed. It’s getting better. He does have a strong throwing arm, which GM Jack Zdruriencik rates as one of the best in the organization.

Several of the current Mariners like Nick Franklin, Brad Miller and Taijuan Walker played with Almonte this season.

“He’s fast, he’s got life in his bat, works the count, fights,” Franklin said. “That’s just the things I remember. He likes to bunt. I just remember him being really fast. You’ll see it tonight. He’s probably going to run as fast as he’s ever run. I remember my first call up, you run pretty fast. But he’s pretty fast as it is. He might beat out a groundball tonight, for sure. People that don’t know him, he’s going to beat out a ground ball for sure, so that’s something to look forward to.”

Miller also mentioned Almonte’s speed, but was more impressed with his on-field demeanor.

“He plays very hard,” Miller said. “It’s why you like playing with him because he plays so hard.”

Age is just a number

It’s interesting to note that Walker, age 21, will be pitching to Henry Blanco, age 42.

Blanco turned 42 yesterday and his teammates bought him a birthday cake with lots of candles. He’s excited to catch the young prospect.

“It’s going to be fun,” he said pregame. “We haven’t sat down and talked to him yet. But pretty sure we’ll go over the scouting report and do the best we can.”

What advice will he give him in that meeting?

“Just focus on the hitter,” he said. “I know there’s going to be some butterflies in his stomach. But I’m sure they’ll get out of there after the first hitter. Just work the strike zone and hopefully we’ll get him some runs so he can relax a little bit.”

After decades in the big leagues, Blanco has more than his share of pitchers making their big league debuts.

“Quite a few,” he said. “You have some good outings and some bad outings. It’s all part of the game. It’s his first outing in the big leagues. We are expecting him to go out there and have fun and do the best he can tonight.

You may see him go to the mound to talk to Walker more than he would with a normal pitcher. It’s just a way to keep Walker calm.

” It all depends on the situation,” he said. “I will probably go out there a few times. Hopefully I don’t have to go out at all. But it’s part of our job and we’ll see how he goes through the game.”

Morales news … 

And in the category of “Yeah, that doesn’t surprise me,” Ken Rosenthal has this report that extension talks between the Mariners and Kendrys M0rales’ agent Scott Boras never really got anywhere.

1. Boras clients rarely if ever sign an extension and that’s usually if they have some attachment to the organization. Morales has no such attachments.

2. This could likely be Morales’ best chance to get a long-term big deal in the future. And with the power market down, he’d be one of the most attractive candidates.

The stuff about hitting away from Safeco Field is interesting if you look at his splits this season.

8-30 -- morales

But Boras could sell umbrellas to people in Phoenix, so I wouldn’t put it past him.

Leave a comment Comments → 7
  1. westside_guy says:

    Why is Ibañez getting preference over Saunders?

  2. The question is why Abe Almonte is playing over Saunders? Is Saunders’ having health issues, Div?

    What do you do if Morales leaves? Morse? I wouldn’t mind him playing 1st/DH on a 1 year deal, but Div suggests he’d like to go back to the East Coast. Certainly wouldn’t get into a bidding war for his services. You could make a case for Morneau or Napoli depending on the cost. I guess you could go with Ibanez. Best case would be Montero grabbing that spot and running with it, but I wouldn’t hold your breath. To make matters worse, Smoak is really struggling right now. I’d like to see him turn it around again before then end of the year. Losing Morales would free up more money to go after one of the top OFs.

  3. dave8557 says:

    I’m getting tired of watching Michael Saunders struggle to hit .240. He’s been given every opportunity to produce the last 3 and a half years. Same with Justin Smoak. I look at Miguel Cabrera with 130 rbi’s at the end of August, and then I look at Smoak with 35. Is it possible for a player to be any worse with runners in scoring position? Perhaps Smoak and Saunders should be packaged and sent elsewhere. They are not cutting it.

  4. wabubba67 says:

    There were those that thought Tino Martinez would never develop the way the organization thought, too. We ended up trading him for (and Jeff Nelson) in a financial move for Russ Davis. Baseball is about patience.

  5. westside_guy says:

    Smoak’s line this year is .249/.344/.408 – that’s better than the average first basemen this season. Batting average is not everything… ultimately, not making outs is what’s important. As is defense – Smoak appears to be pretty good defensive first baseman.

    It’s a similar situation with Saunders. His overall 2013 line is only average for an outfielder – .233/.324/.385 – but his “slump” was fairly likely due to the after effects of that collision with the wall and the time on the DL. For the second half of the season, he’s hitting .253/.370/.434 – well above average for the position… and, incidentally, more in line with what he was hitting before he ran into the wall. And Saunders offers decent defense as well – he’s not Guti out there, but he runs circles around Raul or our dearly departed Morse.

  6. Saunders has been much better by the defensive metrics in RF than CF, though one season isn’t necessarily enough data. His arm is below average for RF, but his range is excellent. Ackley in LF, Ellsbury in CF, and Saunders in RF in 2014 sounds good to me. And Guti as a 4th OF if he’d come back for the minimum would be good as well. Some people must’ve slept through Saunders coming out of his slump. I’ll take a .800 OPS from him any day of the week.

    Smoak’s OPS is .758 after tonight. Still above the American League average even with his recent slump. His issue has been hitting with runners in scoring position. He was dreadful early in the year. His overall number still isn’t good, but he’s been better at it later in the season. I’d certainly have been happy with his season thus far if you’d told me he’d be playing like this in spring training.

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