Thursday, July 27, 2017

Getting to Know Quad Cities Marcos Almonte and Abdiel Saldana

If you're new to WTHB?, you may not know that I now make it a habit to reach out to Doris Gonzalez, the Astros Supervisor of Education and Acculturation, in order to find out which of her Latin American students in the Astros organization are ready for the challenge of an English-language interview. It's a win-win. The students get to practice their English and I get the opportunity to get to know them just a little bit better. On my recent trip to Quad Cities, my victims interviewees were Utility Player Marcos Almonte and RHP Abdiel Saldana. First a little background ...

Marcos Almonte - July 2017
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Almonte signed with the Astros in February 2014 and quickly emerged as a Super Utility player with his ability to play multiple positions, hit for power and steal the occasional base. He has cooled off since his hot start to the season (.314/.344/.529 in April and May), but playing for his first full season team, he is still learning to refine his approach at the plate. According to Quad Cities Manager Russ Steinhorn, "He's learning and he's learning a lot. He's still having success. It's good to see him take in the information, learn the information, learn about the opposing pitching. He sees where he needs improvements. It's good to see him ... honing in on what he needs to do to continue to go through the organization." Personality-wise, Almonte is very outgoing, "a ball of energy ... smiling and bouncing around," and is eager to interact with the American players and show off his new English skills after classes.

Abdiel Saldana - July 2017
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Saldana, who signed with the Astros out of Panama in October of 2013, has had the opposite trajectory to his season. After mostly forgettable results through early May, he has exhibited nothing short of excellence since. In his 15 appearances starting May 9th, he is 4-2 with a save, a 1.52 ERA and a 1.183 WHIP over 47.1 innings of work. Steinhorn thinks the cool weather to start the season may have been a factor in Saldana's early struggles, but he noted, "As soon as the chill left, he's been phenomenal. He moved into the rotation and he's been great." Saldana has also been a great help to Quad Cities Pitching Coach Drew French, helping him communicate with the large number of Spanish-speaking pitchers on the staff, many of whom aren't as advanced as Saldana in their English skills. "Saldana's been really, really good. He's held a lot of roles and he's shown a lot of leadership," said Steinhorn.

Marcos and Abdiel, thank you for your time and thank you for being willing to talk with me! Best of luck to both of you as the season continues.

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