OAKLAND -- Rookie center fielder Abraham Almonte found himself at the center of much of the action in the Mariners' 3-2 loss to the A's on Thursday, a situation not surprising to manager Lloyd McClendon.
The Mariners' new skipper likes Almonte's speed and ability to make things happen -- and says there will be good to go with the bad as the 24-year-old learns to tap his intriguing potential.
Almonte forced in an unearned run in the first inning with his speed, then hustled into second base when the A's overthrew their cutoff man in the fifth inning. But moments later, he missed a sign and got caught standing at third with teammate Dustin Ackley when Brad Miller grounded out against a drawn-in infield.
Defensively, he robbed Derek Norris of a sure double with a beautiful running catch in the gap in the fourth, then missed a diving attempt of a Sam Fuld line drive in the fifth on a ball that rolled to the wall and almost resulted in an inside-the-park home run.
"I told my coaches, this kid last night showed us a little bit of everything," McClendon said prior to Friday's game, which was postponed due to wet field conditions. "He showed us how great he's going to be, he also showed us how young he is. You have to live with the mistakes and encourage him and make him better.
"But he's got a chance to be a pretty good player. He's got the total package. He's a switch-hitter, he's got power from both sides, he can run like a deer, and he's got an arm like a cannon."
McClendon said patience and encouragement are all that are required for Almonte, who was acquired from the Yankees last year for reliever Shawn Kelley.
"I think we saw the greatness when he went into the gap on a ball that was a sure double and made a running catch," McClendon said. "Then he makes the error on the basepath and with the ball that got away from him. But you live with it. We understand that he's going to make some mistakes, but you also understand he's going to be great. One day, we're going to be talking about how special a career this young man has had. We just have to continue to make him better."
Almonte said he loves pressuring other teams with his speed, but knows he has to learn from Thursday's mistake when he got confused with a sign when Ackley was ahead of him at third base on Miller's ground ball.
"I got a little confused with the sign," he said. "They had a see-it-through, no contact sign. But I thought they had a [run on] contact play, so I had a little misunderstanding. It was bad, but I've got it for tonight."
"Learn from it and move on," McClendon said. "We had a lot of good things happen in that game, and I don't want them to get timid."
Mariners designate Noesi, call up righty Leone
OAKLAND -- Hector Noesi was on a short leash with the Mariners this season. A two-game leash, it turns out, as the 27-year-old right-hander was designated for assignment Friday after giving up a walk-off home run to the A's Coco Crisp in Seattle's 3-2 loss Thursday night.
The Mariners recalled rookie right-hander Dominic Leone from Triple-A Tacoma to take Noesi's place in the bullpen. Leone, 22, had a strong spring with the Mariners, and now he will get his first shot with the Major League club after saving 16 games last year for Class A Clinton and Double-A Jackson.
Manager Lloyd McClendon said Leone came very close to making the team this spring and "is a good fit." He declined to outline a specific role for the Mariners' 12th-best prospect, but the skipper said Leone has the talent to pitch in big situations as needed.
"As my old manager used to say, if you pitch good, you're real long. If you pitch bad, you're short," McClendon said with a smile. "He's a talented young man, capable of multiple innings. I can tell you this. I will not be afraid to put him in impactful situations because he's that good and we feel that good about him. I think he adds a lot to this bullpen."
Noesi is out of Minor League options, and the Mariners kept him on their original 25-man roster after a solid spring, hoping to harness his promising arm despite a difficult track record in Seattle. But he gave up two runs in his first inning of mop-up relief in the Mariners' 8-2 victory in Anaheim on Wednesday, then surrendered Crisp's game-winning home run when he left a fastball up over the plate on the second pitch he threw after being summoned into a tie game in the 12th inning.
"Command is the biggest thing," McClendon said. "It's not so much the pitches, it's the location. If you have good fastball command, you should have success in this league. I did see better command [this spring]. But the last couple outings, it just wasn't there."
Noesi is 0-1 with a 27.00 ERA in his two appearances this year and 2-14 with a 6.13 ERA in 36 games over three seasons with the Mariners, including 19 starts. He was 2-2 with a 4.47 ERA in 30 outings with the Yankees as a rookie in 2011 before he was included in the Michael Pineda-Jesus Montero trade.
Leone put up a 1.80 ERA in nine Cactus League games, allowing just two runs on six hits and three walks while striking out 10 in 10 innings.
The hard-throwing right-hander was a 16th-round Draft pick in 2012 out of Clemson, where he was a teammate of Mariners shortstop Brad Miller. Leone has spent just one full season in the Minors, but moved quickly from Class A Clinton and High Desert to Jackson last year and then led the Arizona Fall League with six saves while posting a 3.00 ERA in 11 games with 15 strikeouts and one walk.
"When I got drafted, I made it a goal to just keep pushing the pace," Leone said. "I understand this is a business and there are numbers involved and guys in front of you or whatever, but I didn't let that affect me. I just went about my business, did my work and didn't really keep in mind how fast I was moving.
"When I got to Jackson last year I kind of realized, 'Whoa, this is my first full season and this is the real deal.' I didn't want to let off the gas pedal. I wanted to keep going."
Leone got a call Friday morning from the Mariners in Tacoma, caught a plane to Oakland and went out and played catch with a football with fellow Mariners relievers before Friday's game, as is their early-afternoon custom.
The enormity of a Major League stadium can be imposing for a rookie, and he said the O.co Coliseum third deck "just kind of swallows you up," but he's eager to get his first shot at pitching in a big league game.
"I want to just come in and contribute," he said. "If they need an inning, I've got you an inning. If you need two, whatever. I'm not going to be a guy that comes up and demands a certain role, especially at this point in the game. I'm just excited to get out there and throw and compete and hopefully put some W's in the win column for us."
McClendon unhappy with plate-blocking review
OAKLAND -- Mariners skipper Lloyd McClendon, who came up in baseball as a catcher before becoming a utility player in his Major League career, again expressed displeasure Friday with how a review was handled on a play at the plate in Thursday's 3-2 loss to the A's.
Umpires huddled for nearly five minutes during a replay review of a fifth-inning situation where catcher Mike Zunino tagged out Sam Fuld as the A's outfielder attempted to pull off on an inside-the-park home run against Mariners rookie Roenis Elias.
Fuld was clearly out on the play, but the umpiring crew chose to look at tape to see whether Zunino violated this year's new rule requiring catchers to allow the baserunner a path to the plate.
McClendon understands the need for the new rule, but he wasn't happy that what he felt was a clear-cut call required a review -- particularly a lengthy one -- while his pitcher sat on the bench getting cold. McClendon said the delay led him to not send Elias back out for the sixth inning despite having thrown only 80 pitches and holding a 2-1 lead.
"I talked to them at length about it," said McClendon, who stayed on the field discussing the situation with umpire Jim Reynolds throughout the delay. "I was very disappointed how all that went down. Because we worked on this in Spring Training for quite a while and talked about these kind of things.
"First of all, those challenges should be done in a reasonable amount of time, and the team that's on the field shouldn't come off the field because you don't want your pitcher sitting in the dugout for 5-7 minutes at a time. But everything we talked about didn't happen. My pitcher is sitting on the bench, and that's just not good. He's sitting on the bench after a fairly stressful inning. Now to ask him to come back out is just not fair. It pretty much cost him his outing. He had to come out of the game."
If Elias had been allowed to stay on the field during the replay, he could have thrown some pitches to stay warm. Instead, he and the rest of the Mariners sat in the dugout while the umpires huddled and eventually let the call stand.
"What I voiced to the umpires, 'Your discretion should have been a lot sharper than that,'" McClendon said. "I was a catcher, and I know when the catcher is standing in fair territory it's kind of hard to block the plate. He was in fair territory the whole time. It wasn't a question of him blocking the plate, it was swipe tag and then there was no collision, so what are we reviewing? I was baffled by the whole thing. But live and learn, and hopefully we'll get better through all that."
But while there was also much talk about home-plate umpire Sean Barber's ball-and-strike calling in the same game, McClendon wasn't buying into that particular discussion.
"Listen, the umpires missed a couple calls here and there, but that didn't cause us to lose the game," he said. "We didn't execute on a lot of different fronts. I refuse to use that as an excuse. We had some baserunning blunders, we walked 10, and we didn't get a couple big hits when we needed to get them. So you can throw that out the window. That guy didn't cause us to lose the game."
• Hisashi Iwakuma played flat-ground catch on Friday and will have a similar session Sunday before graduating to throwing off a mound at midweek, as he works his way back from a sprained tendon in his middle finger. The All-Star right-hander will need to throw several bullpen sessions and then do a Minor League rehab stint to build up his arm strength, so he likely won't be ready until late April or early May, if all goes well.
• The Mariners became just the sixth team in MLB history to have five starters from different countries make their first five starts of the season. Felix Hernandez (Venezuela), Erasmo Ramirez (Nicaragua), James Paxton (Canada), Roenis Elias (Cuba) and Chris Young (United States) make up Seattle's opening rotation.