Zolio Almonte was plucked from Triple-A and tasked with giving some pop to a New York Yankees lineup ravaged by injuries.
The rookie left fielder came through, in a big way.
Starting in place of the slumping Vernon Wells, Almonte hit a home run and adding two other singles in his first full game of action, a 6-3 win over Tampa Bay. Almonte also got a single in a pinch hit in action on Friday.
Zolio Almonte’s output was exactly what the Yankees needed, helping the team to a much-needed win over the Tampa Bay Rays. After winning only two of nine games in the past few weeks, the Yankees have now won two straight and sit 2.5 games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox.
The 24-year-old Almonte said he felt a little nervous playing in the big leagues, but it didn’t show in his game.
”It was a sign that things are starting to be where they should be,” Almonte said through a translator.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said the team had been following Almonte closely for a while, taking note of his “pretty swing” in spring training back in 2011.
”He’s been on our radar for a while,” Girardi said, later adding, ”the time has arrived.”
The start was even more impressive given that Almonte isn’t considered one of the Yankees top prospects. But he did hit .297 for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this year, with a .369 on-base percentage, earning his chance at the big leagues.
Almonte said he dreamed about this day since he was a boy in the Dominican Republic. A scout for the Yankees saw Almonte playing in a park league in Santo Domingo when he was 16, leading to a tryout at the Yankees academy. Almonte did so well that the club offered him a $200,000 bonus.
Zolio Almonte said his Friday debut with the Yankees was one of the two best days of the life. The other was the day his son was born, Almonte said.