Almonte Still Adjusting in Tampa

Almonte has gotten off to a slow start in Tampa

The promotion from Charleston to the Tampa Yankees came as a surprise to Zoilo Almonte, but the 21-year-old from Santo Domingo is doing everything he can to earn his spot. Posing a threat at the plate, on the base path and on defense, Almonte is a complete player that can bring a lot to the organization.

"He definitely has potential," said Tampa Yankees hitting coach Julius Matos. "He has a very strong arm, he's a good defender, he runs well and he can steal some bases. He has the complete package."

Almonte, who signed with the Yankees as a non-drafted free agent in 2005, put together some solid numbers in the South Atlantic League this season, batting .278 with 35 RBI and 33 runs scored in 58 games.

"Things were going pretty well for me at the time," Almonte said. "I didn't expect it [promotion from to Tampa], but I was doing well, so I knew at any time it could happen."

Almonte isn't the largest guy on the team at 5-foot-11, 165 pounds, but he swings the bat with a lot of power. With Charleston, he hit ten home runs, 13 doubles and a slugging percentage of .485.

"He swings the bat pretty well. He's got some natural pop and strength in his swing," Matos said. "That's pretty impressive when you have that kind of raw power. He's not a real big guy, but he drives the ball with the best of them."

Through 19 games with the Tampa Yankees, Almonte is hitting just .222 with no extra-base hits. The power hasn't shown up on the stat sheet yet, but that's not raising any concern around the club house.

"I haven't changed my mentality at the plate," Almonte said. "When I'm stepping up to the plate, I'm thinking about hitting my pitch and not hitting the pitcher's pitch. That's been helping me a lot."

Coach Matos sees potential in Almonte, noting that there is always a transition period that players must go through when they move up.

"There's an adjustment period in this league, coming up from Charleston," Matos said. "There's got to be an adjustment period for any power hitter because pitching is a little better and a little smarter. And the ball parks are bit bigger and the ball doesn't carry as well."

Luckily for Almonte, he has all the tools to make contributions all over the field. He plays good defense and is always a stealing threat. So far this season, he's swiped four bags and drawn ten walks.

"I'm working on every aspect of my game," he said. "I don't want to get stuck on one aspect and leave another behind. That might change the way I'm playing the game. I'm just working on everything I need to to stay here."

Matos is confident that Almonte's power will come naturally as he continues to improve his game in other areas. Watching a player's numbers drop when they move up a level is nothing new for him.

"Those are little growing pains that he's going to go through here the rest of the way," Matos said. "He's hanging in there and handling himself pretty well."

The main areas that Matos is working on with Almonte are with his patience at the plate, and making consistent contact. Almonte did have 65 strikeouts in 58 games with Charleston.

"He's a pretty smart hitter when it comes to making adjustments," Matos said. "His patience at the plate should improve."

With more than half of the season already out of the way, Almonte looks to put together a solid resume that will keep him in Tampa for the 2011 season.

"He's made some good plays and he's got some good tools to work with," Matos said. "He has the potential to be a good player in the big leagues and contribute in all phases of the game."

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