It took eight years, but Zoilo Almonte finally made his first career start for the New York Yankees Friday night. After last night’s performance, his second start likely will come much quicker.
Almonte provided a much needed jolt to a Yankees offense that has been stagnant for the better part of a month. The rookie outfielder went 3-4, including a home run, and helped the Yankees to a 6-2 victory over their AL East foe, the Tampa Bay Rays.
Almonte started his Yankees minor league career in 2006, and has patiently worked his way through the system slowly. He earned a spot on the Yankees 40-man roster coming out of spring training, but wasn’t given a real chance to play in New York until last night. His performance, coupled with Vernon Wells‘ struggles, will likely earn him more playing time against right-handed pitching.
Wells was one of the few bright spots for a Yankees offense during the month of April. It looked as though the trade to New York energized the veteran outfielder, as he hit .300 with six home runs during baseball’s first month. However, he’s been pathetic in June, batting .102 without a home run. Something had to be done.
Enter Zoilo Almonte.
The 24-year-old switch-hitting outfielder was off to a nice start in Triple-A, batting .297 with six home runs and 36 RBI, so the Yankees made the call. Last night, he rewarded them by singling twice and blasting a long home run into the Yankees bullpen.
While Wells is probably still going to start against lefties, for the time being it looks like Almonte might start against righties. He’s a solid defender who also showed off an outstanding arm to save a run for starter David Phelps in the fourth inning.
Eventually, Curtis Granderson will come back off the DL (for a second time) and Almonte will likely be shipped back down. However, he can make a case for himself over the next few weeks. If he’s able to get on base consistently, it will be hard for an offensively challenged team like the Yankees to demote him.
B.L. is a sports writer for Rant Sports and can be followed @coachlip on Twitter.