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Almonte bounces back big for Blue Rocks

Royals' No. 6 prospect turns in his second one-hit start of season
April 16, 2014

For Miguel Almonte, success is all about harnessing aggression.

"There were a couple of small periods where he got too aggressive," said Steve Luebber, Almonte's pitching coach at Wilmington. "But he collected himself and that's a rare trait in that young of a pitcher."

The 21-year-old rebounded from a forgettable outing to turn in his second dominant effort of the month, holding the Lynchburg Hillcats to a hit over six innings in the Blue Rocks' 7-2 win in the first game of Wednesday's doubleheader.

The Royals' No. 6 prospect struck out seven, walked two and limited the Hillcats to Edison Sanchez's one-out single in the second inning.

"He has three good pitches, he's aggressive and as long as he controls his aggressions, he's really good," said Luebber, who pitched in the Majors for five of his 22 seasons in baseball. "He established a quality fastball and he was mixing in the curve and change. That's what he did tonight, he added the curve later on."

Almonte worked around a leadoff walk in the third and struck out the side swinging in the fourth. He issued one more walk in the fifth and turned in another 1-2-3 frame in the sixth after Wilmington rallied for seven runs in the top of the inning.

So what exactly is the fine line between being effectively diligent and going a little over the line?

"I don't think he's trying to light up the gun, but he got behind a few batters and felt like he wanted to throw his 'A' fastball. When he does that, he gets off his delivery slightly," said Luebber. "Also, when there's men on base and he's in the stretch, he'll do that a bit, he'll spin off to the left a little hard."

That may have been Almonte's downfall in his last outing, when he was tagged for five runs on seven hits and a pair of walks over 5 2/3 innings against Myrtle Beach. 

"He got a little overaggressive and threw some balls down the middle and gave up a couple home runs, a couple walks," said Luebber of the previous start.

A 6-foot-2 righty out of the Dominican Republic, Almonte spent all of 2013 at Class A Lexington, finishing 6-9 with a 3.10 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 130 2/3 innings. He was selected for the World Team at the Futures Game, where he pitched a scoreless frame. Luebber said he's worked with Almonte and the rest of the Blue Rocks staff on staying composed on the mound when the pressure builds.

"I don't mind any of those guys being aggressive as long as they keep their line to the plate," he said. "If they pull off, it changes their pitches and command. Seeing him as little as I have, he has a lot of good stuff to work with. It's just a matter of him learning how aggressive he can be to be efficient."

Almonte, pitching in a scoreless game for five innings, got some major relief in the sixth. Raul Mondesi Jr. hit a leadoff triple and scored on Hunter Dozier's single to right. Then Jack Lopez, Daniel Rockett and Terrance Gore all smacked two-run doubles. 

Luebber said the Royals' No. 3 right-handed prospect, who has hit 96 mph this season, has a chance of finishing the year at Double-A or higher.

"We kind of think if he does what we hope he'll do, he won't stay here all year," he said. "We see a lot of good things in him, he's testing himself against this league. He's still so young to put him at Double-A too quickly. You'd rather be a little slow than too quick."

Lynchburg earned a split of the doubleheader behind Greg Ross' five shutout innings in a 3-2 win. Yender Caramo suffered the loss for Wilmington.

Danny Wild is an editor for Follow his MLBlog, Minoring in Twitter.