Almonte transitions from outfield to the mound

 Former Toronto Blue Jays outfield prospect Joshua Almonte is working on transitioning into a pitcher at the Bobby Mattick Training Center in Dunedin, Fla., this spring. Photo Credit: Nikolas Marsiglio

Former Toronto Blue Jays outfield prospect Joshua Almonte is working on transitioning into a pitcher at the Bobby Mattick Training Center in Dunedin, Fla., this spring. Photo Credit: Nikolas Marsiglio

By Nikolas Marsiglio

Toronto Observer

DUNEDIN, Fla. – Toronto Blue Jays prospect Joshua Almonte has changed a lot – including where on the field he plays – since returning from Australia.

The Blue Jays’ 22nd round pick in 2012 spent the months of November 2016 to January 2017 with the Canberra Cavalry, an Australian-based team.

“It was a great experience just because you kind of get the best of both worlds,” the Wesley Chapel, Fla. native said. “You get to spend time in Australia and you get to play baseball.”

“You didn’t really deal with the pressure of having to perform. You just went out there and had fun, and just got to see if what you were working on was working. I truly think it did.”

With less pressure, Almonte put up some of his best numbers throughout his young baseball career. Over 34 games, he batted .310, with a .367 on-base percentage, hit two home runs, and drove in 14 runs.

Upon returning to the class-A Advanced Dunedin Blue Jays for the 2017 season, Almonte did not perform as well as he had in the Australian Baseball League. In 49 contests, Almonte had a .221 batting average, a .271 on-base percentage, with one home run, and 15 runs driven in.

This is when Almonte and the Blue Jays organization decided to make a change and turn the former outfielder into a pitcher. Having a 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame made him an ideal pitching candidate.

“I actually transitioned this past offseason. It was nothing new just because it was something I did when I was in high school. Getting back into it has been fun,”  Almonte said.

“Growing up, I’ve always had a decent arm, so I think it will be a challenge, but I think as long as I try to get better (at pitching) it will really benefit myself.”

He knew that becoming a pitcher would increase his chances of moving up through the Blue Jays organization. Getting advice from major-league players was paramount in maximizing his chances for success.

 “I remember last year, (Jose) Bautista was hurt, and he was talking to some of the players,” Almonte said.  “One of the things he said was, ‘If you’re trying to chase being perfect, you are always going to fail. There is no such thing as a perfect swing or perfect pitching mechanics.’

“As a minor-leaguer you try to do things perfect, and there’s no such thing, and that really made sense, I liked that a lot.” Almonte said.

It has been a steady process into transitioning into a pitcher.

“I don’t have a season end goal. I have goals I set for myself every day. As long as I accomplish them, eventually it will put me in a good place at the end of the season,” he said.

“Right now I’m just trying to get the mechanics down right, just throw a bullpen every couple of days. Basically, just take it one thing at a time. Right now (I’m) just trying to work on my lower half, and that’s really my main focus.”