Mariners right-hander Brandon Maurer (0-0, 2.08) is scheduled to throw out today’s first pitch at Safeco Field at 1:10 p.m. against Texas. Left-hander Matt Harrison is making his season debut for the Rangers.
Abraham Almonte is getting his first day off of the season, after starting the first 23 games in center field and hitting leadoff in 22 of those. Almonte is hitting .204 this season with a .250 on-base percentage. In the first five games of this homestand, he was 3 for 21 with nine strikeouts. He’s tied for the major-league lead with 36 strikeouts in 98 at-bats.
Michael Saunders is hitting leadoff for the second day in a row and playing center field for the first time this year.
Shortstop Brad Miller, hitting. 174, is also getting a day off — which, manager Lloyd McClendon noted, is actually two days with Monday’s off day.
“I’m just trying to give Almonte the time off — two days off to clear his mind a little bit,” McClendon said. “This stuff can be overwhelming sometimes. I’ve been there and I know what he’s going through. We still believe in the young man. We want him to flourish, but I don’t want it to overwhelm him. So just give him a breather and hopefully he can get refreshed and be ready to go. And the same thing with Miller. We talk about Almonte all the time, but this young man’s struggling, too. Give them both some time off and hopefully they can bounce back and be ready to go in New York.”
McClendon was asked how he would summarize Almonte’s first month of the season.
“Not good,” McClendon said, “but he’s in a boat with a lot of other guys. I know, because he’s in the leadoff spot … everybody wants to make a big deal out of Almonte, but we got a lot of guys not hitting. We got guys that should be hitting and have had time in the big leagues that are 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. If we’re going to analyze this, we’re going to speak truthful about it, then let’s analyze it and speak truthful about everybody. We got a lot of guys that are not doing the job.
“The fact is, we are where we are and we have what we have, and we’ve got to make ’em better,” he added. “You can argue for your limitations and that’s just what they become, and I choose not to argue for our limitations. I choose to move forward and make these guys better.”
As for Almonte’s strikeouts, McClendon said he’s trying to be patient with the 24-year-old. He talked about the patience the Tigers had with center fielder Austin Jackson a few years ago in a similar situation. Jackson struck out 181 times in 2011.
“He’s a pretty good players now, and this kid (Almonte) is going to be a pretty good player,” McClendon said. “You just got to be patient. That’s the one thing we don’t seem to have in this game, is patience, when it comes to young players. ”
Almonte said he welcomed the day off.
“Just trying to free my mind and relax and see what happens in the next couple days. I think the day off today will be great for me,” Almonte said.
He added that his first month has been “a little bit of a battle, like all players are going to go through. It’s a tough time, but (there’s) nothing I can do right now. I need just need to keep focused and … keep working hard. I think things are going to change for good.
“Right now,” he added, “it’s just one of those tough times we have to grind through in the season. … I just need to trust myself and stay calm.”
Almonte said he can draw on the success he had last year in his late-season call-up, when he hit .264 with four doubles, two home runs and nine RBI in 25 games.
“Last year, I see that I can play in the big-league level and I can compete like any of those players who play every day,” he said. “So I just need to keep working and one day the hard times pass. I think everything’s going to be fine — and funny.”