Yency Almonte looked every bit the top prospect in his first Triple-A start Thursday night.
“It felt good to get the first one out of the way,” Almonte said. “I know I got behind (in the count) sometimes today but overall I made my pitches when I needed to.”
Almonte (1-0) allowed three runs, two earned, and seven hits. His fastball sat around 95 mph on the stadium gun, while mixing it up with his offspeed pitches.
“He’s got a plus fastball and a really good changeup and then a very competitive slider,” manager Glenallen Hill said. “He pitched with intention. I could see he’s a very confident guy. He believes in his stuff.”
Almonte said he was just following catcher Dustin Garneau’s game plan when it came to mixing it up.
“I just trusted what Garneau put down,” Almonte said. “He said, ‘Hey, I’ve been here for a while. I know what I’m going to call and it will work out.’ ”
Almonte struck out six and walked two, though both of those were issued in the seventh inning after he had to sit for 20-plus minutes while the Isotopes (54-51) batted around in the sixth. A 6-4-3 double play got Almonte out of any trouble in the seventh.
“It was good that he got off to a good start because I was concerned in his last inning of work because he had such a long, long layoff,” Hill said. “Having to sit and manage your emotions is just part of the gig. I’m glad that he got the double play.”
The two hardest-hit balls off Almonte were back-to-back doubles by Ryan O’Hearn and Frank Schwindel in the fourth inning, the former aided by a collision between center fielder David Dahl and right fielder Noel Cuevas. Luckily, both outfielders were able to walk away with no problem.
“We learn how to read the body language so that’s why I didn’t go to the top step,” Hill said. “They seemed there was a little bit of (collision) but you could tell they were both all right.”
Almonte’s strongest inning might have been the sixth, when he got Jorge Soler to ground out to shortstop and then struck out O’Hearn and Schwindel on a 95 mph fastball and a knee-buckling slider, respectively.
Overall, it was a solid performance for Almonte, who threw 63 of 102 pitches for strikes.
“I would (grade) it a B today,” Almonte said.
Almonte earned his promotion to Triple-A with a dominant performance at Double-A Hartford and said he is looking to carry that forward.
“It feels good just being able to go out this year at Double-A with the confidence I had,” he said. “I know that my first start here, I went out and got the win. Now I just need to settle down (more) for my next start.”
The Albuquerque lineup did plenty to back up Almonte. Ryan McMahon went 4-for-5 and fell a double shy of the cycle. David Dahl was 3-for-5 and was also a double shy of the cycle.
Dahl’s solo homer in the third inning tied the game at 1-1. McMahon’s two-run homer in the fifth would give the Isotopes a 4-3 lead. They would never trail again.
The sixth inning featured five runs on seven hits, including three triples by Mike Tauchman, Derrik Gibson and Dahl.
“They like to take extra bases and they like to run in your face,” Hill said. “That’s their mantra. They want to run in your face. To have that many triples starts first step right out of the box.”
Gibson started at designated hitter in place of Raimel Tapia, who was held out of the lineup for undisclosed reasons. It was most likely due to the calf injury suffered by Ian Desmond, with the Colorado Rockies wanting Tapia to be fresh and ready to return to the Majors just in case Desmond has to go back on the disabled list.
Rehabbing Rockies pitcher Chad Bettis will get the start for Albuquerque tonight at 7:05. He will be opposed by a to-be-announced start for Omaha.