Patience has been in short supply at the top of the Mariners’ lineup. Through 23 games, Abraham Almonte and Brad Miller combined for just seven walks against 62 strikeouts.
Manager Lloyd McClendon is, however, continuing to express a patient approach with his two young players.
Almonte, the 24-year-old switch-hitter, said he welcomed his first day off Sunday as the Mariners wrapped up a six-game homestand against Texas. He had started the first 23 games of the season in center field and, until Saturday, had been the leadoff hitter every game, too.
In the first five games of the homestand, Almonte was 3 for 21 with nine strikeouts; his batting average dropped to .204 and his on-base percentage fell to .250. He’s tied for the major-league lead with 36 strikeouts in 98 at-bats this season.
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“This stuff can be overwhelming sometimes,” McClendon said. “I’ve been there and I know what he’s going through. We still believe in the young man. We want him to flourish, but I don’t want it to overwhelm him. So just give him a breather and hopefully he can get refreshed and be ready to go. And the same thing with Miller. We talk about Almonte all the time, but this young man’s struggling, too. Give them both some time off and hopefully they can bounce back and be ready to go in New York (on Tuesday).”
The Mariners are off Monday before beginning a stretch of 10 games in nine days, starting with a three-game series against the Yankees on Tuesday. Almonte said he hoped to use the days off to “free my mind and relax.” His success as a late-season call-up last year — when he hit .264 with four doubles, two home runs and nine runs batted in in 25 games — gives him confidence he can turn it around this season.
Although McClendon described Almonte’s first month as “not good,” he is not placing blame for the M’s offensive woes only on the young leadoff hitter.
“If we’re going to analyze this, we’re going to speak truthful about it, then let’s analyze it and speak truthful about everybody. We’ve got a lot of guys that are not doing the job,” McClendon said.
Michael Saunders, who hit a leadoff homer Saturday, batted first for the second straight day Sunday and started in center field.
Miller also had Sunday off. The shortstop, hitting .174 with 26 strikeouts and two walks in 86 at-bats, had batted second in 18 games before moving down to ninth last week.
Iwakuma makes first rehab start
In his first rehab start, Hisashi Iwakuma allowed three runs (two earned) in four innings for Tacoma on Sunday in Las Vegas. He threw 76 pitches, 54 for strikes, allowing six hits with two strikeouts and no walks.
Iwakuma missed all of spring training with a strained finger tendon on his throwing hand.
Iwakuma was an All-Star for the Mariners in 2013, going 14-6 with a 2.66 earned-run average. He finished third in Cy Young balloting.
• As part of his return to New York this week, Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano is scheduled to be a guest on “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon on Monday.
Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @a_jude.