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Almonte's wild night shows glimpse of potential

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."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.
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