Almonte Showing Improvement For Yankees





NEW YORK—What the Yankees do with Nick Swisher will likely affect Zoilo Almonte's future with the organization.

Swisher is a free agent following this season. If he leaves—a strong possibility—the Yankees are going to need a right fielder.

In the past, this wouldn't be a problem because they likely would overpay Swisher to stay. Or they would scour the free agent market and sign a big name such as Josh Hamilton.

But the Yankees vow to keep their payroll under $189 million in 2014. They also have Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson to take care of before or after the 2013 season.

Enter Almonte, a 23-year-old native of the Dominican Republic who signed in July 2005.

After impressing the big league staff in spring training, Almonte started slowly for Double-A Trenton, but when the weather warmed, the switch-hitting Almonte got hot.

"He had never played in cold weather," vice president Mark Newman said. "The first time kids do that, it's almost funny. They have never been around it."

Almonte, who plays all three outfield spots but is best in right, hit 11 homers in June and July and was batting .275/.317/.486 with 17 homers through 83 games. He was successful in 14 of 18 stolen-base attempts.

So, can the 6-foot, 205-pound Almonte make the jump from Double-A to the big leagues if needed?

"It's a stretch to say he is that close," Newman said. "He is improving, but he needs time at Triple-A, and maybe a full year but I wouldn't count him out."

YANKEE DOODLES

• After hitting .277/.344/.464 with 14 homers in 88 Double-A games, 25-year-old outfielder Melky Mesa was promoted to Triple-A. "He is making more contact, he always had the power and could run," Newman said.

• Righthander Giovanny Gallegos, a 21-year-old signed out of Mexico last year, allowed one unearned run through his first 19 innings in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.