SCOTTSDALE — Yency Almonte rode out Hurricane Irma with his family in Miami during the offseason. Now, he’s trying to ride a wave of momentum from his second appearance of the spring into bigger and better things with the Colorado Rockies.
On Wednesday in a win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, the 23-year-old Almonte flashed his skills on the mound, throwing three scoreless and hitless innings, earning the praise of Colorado manager Bud Black after the outing.
"“He threw the ball great,” Black said. “Good velocity with location. Good hard slider. Had some funny swings against big leaguers, which was nice to see.”"
The outing pushed Almonte to 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five spring innings. Opponents are hitting .125 against him and have struck out four times while not drawing a walk.
Almonte says his success is all about consistency, and that’s what he will be aiming to take to the mound on Monday when he is scheduled to make his next relief appearance against the Chicago Cubs. For Almonte, it’s a simple formula.
"“Just be consistent. Try to stay within myself and do what I did last time. Control the count and attack the zone,” he told me in an exclusive interview on Sunday morning inside the Rockies clubhouse at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Ariz."
Called up to Triple-A last season, Almonte went 3-1 but saw his ERA balloon to 4.89, a far cry from his 2.00 ERA he had in 14 starts with Double-A Hartford. If Almonte starts the season in Triple-A this year, he believes he will have a different mindset.
"“Last year, I allowed the lineup to get into my head,” the right-hander said. “The same big league guys in the lineup, I tried to do more what I needed to do. I feel like I’m here to throw strikes this year.”"
He’s flashing that same confidence with the Rockies in his second big league camp.
"“I feel more confident now. Last year was my first year in big league camp and I felt a little nerves here and there. This year, I’m just here to show what I can do,” said Almonte, ranked as the fourth-best prospect in the Rockies organization by Baseball Prospectus in January."
Nerves are something Almonte certainly felt when Hurricane Irma hit south Florida in September with winds reaching 100 miles per hour. He and his family chose not to evacuate and faced the brunt of the storm head on.
"“It’s not something you want to go through with your family,” Almonte said. “A lot of people in Miami evacuated up north. My family decided to stay home so we just stayed home and prayed. I had friends in Puerto Rico who almost lost everything. At the end of the day, you just want to be safe.”"
His biggest memories of the storm?
"“A couple of trees falling in the neighborhood and hearing the windows shattering,” he said."
Almonte is part of a young Rockies pitching corps that includes Kyle Freeland, German Marquez, Antonio Senzatela and Jeff Hoffman, all hurlers who helped the Rockies grab their first postseason berth since 2009 last season. Being part of a young squad is something that Almonte says he is enjoying and plans to continue to enjoy.
"“I like it,” Almonte smiled. “I feel that we’re going to be here for a long time. Stick together and have that chemistry as we get older.”"