ADDITIONAL NOTE: If you missed my Talkin’ Baseball segment on Sports Radio KJR this morning, you can listen to it in the podcast up above.
Well, here’s a look we weren’t expecting to see. Abraham Almonte is starting in center field for the Mariners today as they try to give him looks in as many outfield positions as possible.
“That’s where he’s been playing the majority of time in AAA and in winter ball prior to that,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “And in other places, in left field and right field. Som here in a short period of time here, we’ve seen him play in left and in center and in right field and so I think that’s a good thing.”
Wedge said he didn’t want to break Almonte in at Houston, where the center field has a quirky berm that rises uphill. It’s a little more normal here, with just some fountains beyond the outfield wall.
Why do this? Well, one theory is the Mariners want to see what they’ve got just in case Almonte turns out to be a diamond in the rough. Another is that if they hope to include him in any trade packages this winter, it would help if they could say he plays all three spots in the majors and have evidence to prove it. And there will be those who say this is just another way for Jack Zduriencik to show there’s a horde of youth on the way and that things will eventually get better and he didn’t get fleeced in the Shawn Kelley trade.
Take your pick. Could be a combo of all three elements involved.
As for Franklin Gutierrez, out today, Wedge said he isn’t hurt, just having normal precautions taken so he can remain healthy going forward.
You can see from the lineup below that Mike Zunino is indeed here and catching Felix Hernandez today.
Wedge said one reason for that is the team wants the pair to get used to each other, since the Mariners hope this will be a pitcher-catcher battery for years to come. He plans to catch Zunino today and tomorrow night and then see where he’s at physically from there.
Zunino caught three games for Class AAA Tacoma and says he’s ready to go after breaking that hamate bone a month ago.
“I think I got plenty of swings and plenty of catching done down there and I feel real good,” Zunino said.
It was Zunino’s catching hand that had the hamate bone removed, but he said it doesn’t feel any differently than it did before.
“That was the biggest thing,” he said. “The first day, I caught five innings and it felt good. And then when I caught the seven and nine (inning-games) it was just back to normal, which was the biggest thing. It really had no effect on my catching.”
The Mariners plan to announce more September call-ups after the game and have them here with the team tomorrow. At least some of the callups will be pitchers because Taijuan Walker is only expected to get another couple of starts — one here on Wednesday and the other in Seattle next week (Monday, if he stays on regular rotation). So, at least one of the callups will have to take his rotation slot after that. Wedge won’t say who, but James Paxton is said to already be on his way here. That’ll be two of the supposed “Big 3″ up in the majors.