When Zoilo Almonte first came to the plate on Saturday, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was sitting in the stands next to scout and advisor Jim Hendry.
“Jim Hendry was sitting next to me and he was like, ‘I’ve never seen this kid have a bad day yet,’” Cashman said. “Not this spring, but since he’s been with us scouting our system. And he said that right before the home run.”
Almonte had a big day on Saturday — home run, threw out a guy from right field – but it was today’s big news that made him worth immediate attention. Curtis Granderson is going to miss 10 weeks with a broken forearm, and although Cashman said before today’s game that he wouldn’t want a young player in a big league bench role, he wasn’t so sure that a young player couldn’t step into a temporary job as a lineup regular.
The Yankees minor league system has a handful of upper-level outfield candidates — Ronnier Mustelier, Melky Mesa and Thomas Neal are the ones with Triple-A experience — but there is no clear standout from that group, and since each one comes with questions, why not put Almonte into consideration? He’s a switch hitter who has a spot on the 40-man and hit .277/.322/.487 with 21 homers in Double-A last year.
“We have future everyday right fielder scouting grades on him,” Cashman said. “People want to rate — I don’t think accurately — that we don’t have things knocking on the door, but we do have some. Our biggest depth is down below, but Zoilo Almonte is one of those guys that we have future everyday right fielder scouting grades on. His throw yesterday, his home run to the opposite field, we’ve seen that.”
Is it enough to give Almonte a shot? Cashman didn’t necessarily go that far, but he certainly wasn’t in the mood for ruling anything out after today’s game. There’s no obvious choice, and the Yankees seem willing to look at every possibility.
“There’s going to be guys here who are going to get to play a lot,” Joe Girardi said. “We’ll have to try to figure out what we’re going to do. Is it a situation where it’s a guy who plays every day? Is it a platoon situation? There’s some things we’re going to have to look at.”
On having enough time to get Derek Jeter ready for Opening Day
“Twenty days of Derek Jeter in spring training is still better than whatever the alternative we’re going to run out there. … He’s kind of doing everything but we’re not ready to run him out there for game activity. When we do, I think we’ll start him at DH and then expand.”
On the catching competition
“Well, we’ve got two guys (Stewart and Cervelli) out of options and one guy (Romine) with an option. I think the two guys (without options) are winning.”
On choosing a right-handed reserve outfielder
“You wouldn’t want a young buck to be sitting on the bench as a pinch hitter. That’s a different role altogether. That’s an experience that you have to learn. A number of these (young) guys, with their experience at the minor league level, we’re going to give them looks here. But I think going into this, without question, Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz — in theory — have a huge leg up on anybody else because of their major league experience and having to come off the bench.”
* This was said before Granderson’s injury
On the development of Dellin Betances
“(His) physical tools are overwhelming. He’s had a good spring; his bullpens are fantastic. If you’re sitting there scouting him, you’re going to be blown away, but when you’re at the level that (Betances is at) now in pro ball, you start to performance scout. It matters what he does between the lines, not just in major league spring training, but in season. He’s going to be a starter at Triple-A for us. Two years ago he was one of the premier young starters in the game and last year, he took a radical step back because of fastball command. His year last year, was it one of complete failure, or was it just a step back?”
Associated Press photos