By Shannon Drayer
Twenty-four games in and Abraham Almonte gets his first day off. The Almonte-less looks like this.
"I'm just trying to give Almonte a couple of days off, two days off to clear his mind a little bit," manager Lloyd McClendon said before Sunday's game. "This stuff can be overwhelming sometimes. I've been there. I know what he is going through. We still believe in the young man. We want him to flourish, but I don't want it to overwhelm him.
"Same thing with (shortstop) Brad Miller. We talk about Almonte but it's the same thing with Miller. This young man is struggling too. So we give both some time off and hopefully they bounce back and be ready to go in New York."
An interesting but timely shift by McClendon. With the calendar about to flip to May, the expectations change too. The majority of the lineup has been given ample at-bats to settle in and the results are there to be seen by all. The team is 27th in runs, 28th in on-base percentage and 24th in slugging percentage.
When asked to assess Almonte's performance so far, McClendon pointed out that he has not been alone in his struggles.
"Not good, but he's in a boat with a lot of other guys," he said. "Because he is in the leadoff spot everybody wants to make a big deal about Almonte, but we have got a lot of guys not hitting. And we have guys not hitting, we've got guys who should be hitting, who have had time in the big leagues are not hitting, so I don't want to put it all on this guy's shoulders. To say our offensive woes are because of Almonte, that's just not the case. If we are going to analyze this and speak truthful about it then let's analyze it and speak truthful of everyone. We've got a lot of guys who are not doing the job."
This isn't McClendon asking for help in the form of another bat. There are no quick fixes in his eyes.
"The fact is we are what we are and we have what we have and we have got to make them better," McClendon said. "You can argue for your limitations and that's just what they become. I choose not to argue for our limitations, I choose to move forward and make our guys better."
Plenty of work to be done.
• Michael Saunders is making his first start in center today, he is also making his first start against a lefty. He has had five plate appearances against lefties this season.
• This spring McClendon said that in an ideal world he would love to have Kyle Seager hit second in the lineup. We saw that for a good number of Cactus League games, but when Seager's bat failed to get going he was moved down in the order and replaced with Miller. I asked today if he would still like to get Kyle to the two spot and he said that he would, but he just needs to see him hitting consistently before he makes the move. Small sample but over his last five games Seager is hitting .389/.450/.889/1.339.
• Hisashi Iwakuma's line for the Rainiers in Vegas: 4IP, 6H, 3R, 2ER, 0BB, 2K. He threw 76 pitches, 54 for strikes with 6-2 groundouts/flyouts.