Almonte doing his part to 'pay back' Indians

Ineligible for postseason, outfielder delivers go-ahead hit in comeback win

Almonte doing his part to 'pay back' Indians

CLEVELAND -- Abraham Almonte hopes to finish his season with a champagne celebration. The outfielder did his time, missing the first half of the season due to a suspension, but he is trying to do everything in his power now to help the Indians achieve their October aspirations.

As part of his punishment, Almonte will not be eligible for the postseason, but he can certainly try to help the Tribe get there. The outfielder did his part again Sunday, delivering two hits, including a go-ahead single in the sixth inning that helped the Indians pick up a 5-4 comeback win over the Angels.

"He can play now," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "That's all you can do."

In early July, when Almonte's 81-game suspension for testing positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance came to an end, and Cleveland called him back to the big leagues, the outfielder received a text from his agent.

Almonte's RBI single

"Good job, Abe. It's time to pay them back."

Since then, Almonte has tried to show his gratitude through his play on the field.

"I know how much the Indians helped me and have taken care of me," Almonte said. "That's the way I feel right now. I have to do everything I can to make sure I do my best to help the team get to the playoffs."

Lately, Almonte has been holding up his end of the bargain.

With his performance Sunday, the switch-hitting outfielder is batting .297 with one homer, nine doubles, nine RBIs and 12 runs scored in 27 games (79 plate appearances) for Cleveland since returning from the restricted list July 3. Over his past 17 games, Almonte has hit at a .358 clip in 57 plate appearances.

Almonte's opposite-field double

That recent stretch comes after Almonte hit .143 in his first 10 games back.

"When he first got back here, it didn't seem like he had the same personality going, yet," Francona said. "He was joining us late and was coming from a little bit of a weird place. But, the last two-three weeks, he's been a lot more like the Abe we remember from last year. He's helped us a bunch."

The outfielder had a Minor League stint before being activated, but the bulk of his first half was spent training at the team's complex in Arizona. All the time off from game action contributed to his slow start, but he feels increased playing time, combined with the work he put in, has led to better results.

The biggest improvement can be found in his production from the right side. Heading into Sunday, Almonte was hitting .357 (10-for-28) with a 1.010 OPS against left-handed pitching. A year ago, he was much better from the left side (.779 OPS) than the right (.548 OPS).

Almonte said he has appreciated how Francona has handled him.

Almonte doubles off Gardner

"He's been really honest to me," Almonte said. "When you play for guys like Tito, you don't worry about when you're going to play. You just worry about being there for your teammates whenever he puts you in. It feels like he takes care of you, so when he says, 'OK, I need you,' you want to take care back."

On top of that, Almonte wants to "pay back" the Indians, even though he will not be available for postseason games.

"A few days ago, I was thinking about it," Almonte said. "I can't control that. So, I just think, 'Let's control what you can control, and make sure you help this team to get into the playoffs and the World Series.' Right now, that's my goal. I know my job is helping them out to make sure they get there."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.