Call him “Plan Z’’
After Zoilo Almonte introduced himself in grand fashion last night to help the Yankees to a 6-2 win over the Rays in front of an announced crowd of 41,123, manager Joe Girardi spoke glowingly of Vernon Wells’ replacement in left field.
“He has a pretty swing and we expected him to be a big league player and the time has arrived,’’ Girardi said of the 24-year-old native of the Dominican Republic who went 3-for-4, homered and showed off a strong throwing arm to save a run in the fourth inning.
Though Almonte had a spot on the 40-man roster when spring training opened, the Yankees sure didn’t act like he was ready for the big leagues.
Curtis Granderson went down in the second exhibition game and the Yankees signed Ben Francisco and Brennan Boesch. Late in camp they poured $13 million into Vernon Wells. Recently they promoted Thomas Neal over Almonte. You want to go back to when Nick Swisher left last year and the Yankees gave Ichiro Suzuki two years.
So, Almonte, who was promoted from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Tuesday, is Plan Z. And for one night it worked.
Who knows where Almonte is headed, but he was very good in his debut as a big league starter. He singled in the second and fourth innings and swatted a solo homer with one out in the sixth off Roberto Hernandez that stretched the Yankees’ lead to 5-2.
Chances are strong he isn’t the next Bryce Harper or Mike Trout. But with a lineup that bleeds heavily for every run, it’s possible he can add a jolt.
This is Almonte’s eighth year in the Yankees’ organization, and though he didn’t count calendar days he explained last night was going to become a reality.
“I always thought it would happen,’’ said Almonte, who collected his first big league hit as a pinch-hitter for Wells Thursday night. “I never thought about the time.’’
As for getting talked into a curtain call following the homer that landed in the Yankees’ bullpen, Almonte said: “It felt good, it was a sign that things are where they should be.’’
After getting the ball signed by teammates Almonte said he will deliver it to his mother.
The victory enabled the Yankees to remain 3 1/2 games behind the AL Eastleading Red Sox and went to David Phelps, who is 5-4 after giving up two runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Call him “Plan Z’’