Abraham Almonte just shakes his head when he tries to describe the last year of his baseball career. In that time, he’s gone from an unknown to an unexpected surprise, from a player acquired to salvage something out of nothing to a player who could make the Mariners’ opening-day roster. It’s been a magical ride for the 24-year-old outfielder. Asked to sum it all up, he used one word — “unbelievable.” Not much was expected of Almonte when he was acquired a few days into spring training last season. The Mariners had been forced to designate reliever Shawn Kelley for assignment on Feb. 7 to make room on the 40-man roster after signing free-agent catcher Kelly Shoppach. With Kelley not likely to clear waivers, the Mariners tried to salvage something out of the situation and acquired Almonte from the Yankees in a trade. The Mariners knew they had acquired a speedy, switch-hitting minor-league outfielder with some potential. Almonte had hit .276 (88 for 319) with 17 doubles, four triples, four homers and stole 30 bases in 78 games for Class AA Trenton. There was some talent. But what the Mariners didn’t completely realize was that Almonte was finally healthy — physically, mentally and emotionally. His surgically repaired shoulder no longer ached and his eyes were finally clear from the late-night drinking binges. In 2011, Almonte addressed his growing alcohol problem and became a born-again Christian. “It saved me,” he said. With his personal life in order, he focused on his professional life. The 2013 season was a product of that change. Almonte didn’t get a major-league spring-training invitation after the trade. He participated in the Mariners’ minor-league minicamp and was eventually sent to Class AA Jackson. After 29 games with the Generals where he hit .255 with six doubles, four homers and 18 runs batted in, he was moved up to Class AAA Tacoma. Almonte blossomed with the Rainiers. In 94 games, he hit .314 with 17 doubles, 11 homers and 50 RBI while stealing 20 bases. It earned him a September call-up where he hit .264 with four doubles, two homers and nine RBI in 25 games. He even caught the eye of new manager Lloyd McClendon last season when the Mariners played the Tigers.
Abraham Almonte’s magical rise with Mariners
Seattle Times | Mar 5