HOUSTON -- Struggling young center fielder Abraham Almonte was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma after Sunday's 9-8 victory over the Astros. Outfielder James Jones was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma on Monday to take his place on the roster.
Almonte opened the season as manager Lloyd McClendon's starting center fielder and leadoff man, but the 23-year-old hit just .198 with a .248 on-base percentage in 26 games.
Michael Saunders has played center and hit first the past four games and has gone 8-for-18 (.444) with two doubles, three runs and four RBIs to raise his average to .263.
Almonte had a big season in Tacoma last year and then batted .264 with two homers and nine RBIs in 25 games for the Mariners as a September callup, but he's struggled to produce in a bigger role this year.
"I just have to keep working and get my feeling back at the plate and I think everything will be OK," Almonte said after learning of his demotion from McClendon. "He told me to go get it going and you'll be back soon."
Almonte entered Sunday's game as a pinch-runner and stole a base in the ninth, giving him three steals in four chances this year.
The Mariners now have five outfielders, including Dustin Ackley, Cole Gillespie, Stefen Romero and Saunders, while designated hitter Corey Hart can also play some right field. Logan Morrison is another outfield candidate, but he's on the 15-day disabled list with a strained hamstring and will need a Minor League rehab stint before he's ready to return.
Jones, 25, will be in his second stint with the Mariners this season. He made his Major League debut and went 1-for-1 April 18 at Miami. In 21 games with the Rainiers, he was batting .321 with three doubles, a triple, two home runs, eight RBIs and five stolen bases.
The team can also add a 26th player on Wednesday for a doubleheader, with starter Erasmo Ramirez being the likely addition to pitch one of the games.
Farquhar goes two innings for spot save
HOUSTON -- With Fernando Rodney having pitched in five of the Mariners' last eight games, including a four-out save on Saturday, manager Lloyd McClendon went to Danny Farquhar to fill the closer's role on Sunday and wound up using him for two innings in the 8-7 victory over the Astros in the series finale at Minute Maid Park.
Farquhar allowed three hits and a run after replacing a struggling Charlie Furbush, with the first hit allowing two inherited runners to cross the plate as Houston closed the final gap. But the 5-foot-11 right-hander dug in and got his first save of the season after saving 16 games last year.
"I've done that plenty," Farquhar said of the two-inning save. "It's nothing different. That's college stuff. That's what I used to do [at Louisiana-Lafayette]. You just have to do what you have to do and just get it done when the time comes."
Farquhar said he was told just before the game by bench coach Trent Jewett he'd be in the closing role for the day.
"I was on my way out doing handshakes with position players in left field and Trent called me back and said you'll pitch the ninth today and if the game calls for it, you might pitch the eighth, too," Farquhar said. "So I was prepared, which is nice, so you can do you routine and get ready."
Farquhar has proven to be a valuable and versatile commodity in the Mariners bullpen with a 1.20 ERA in 15 innings over 13 appearances.
"He bounces back really well and he closed games last year," McClendon said. "He knows what he's doing."
Rodney and Yoervis Medina were given Sunday off, with Medina having pitched in three straight games. Medina gave up three hits and two runs while getting just one out Saturday, leaving Rodney to escape a bases-loaded jam in eighth to preserve the win.
But McClendon didn't think that had to do with Medina pitching too much.
"No, I can't make that excuse," McClendon said. "I just tell it like it is. He was just bad. If you ask him, he'll tell you he was bad. It wasn't the fact he's overused. A sinkerballer should be better with the more outings they get, he was just bad."
Same story with rookie Dominic Leone, who had his first rough outing, giving up two hits and a walk without recording an out, including a two-run homer by Jonathan Villar. McClendon said he has total trust in the 22-year-old, despite that blip.
Leone pitched to two batters on Friday, striking out both on nine pitches, but previously had not thrown in a game since April 25.
"He'd had six days off in a row, so I don't think fatigue was it at all," McClendon said. "I just think probably more than anything it was rust. Six days off is a long time. You come back and you're short and then he came right back again. So it was probably rust more than anything."
Leone has worked his way into more of a late-inning role since being called up on April 6 to replace Hector Noesi, posting a 2.13 ERA in 10 outings even with Saturday's implosion.
"I think he's earned those type of situations and you'll probably see him in more high-leverage situations," said McClendon, who has been interchanging his setup opportunities between Tom Wilhelmsen, Medina and Leone when going to a right-hander. "Most of the time we look at matchups and see if there is some history there. With him, there's obviously no history there, but I know what he's got and what he's capable of doing."
Rodney delivers with first four-out save
HOUSTON -- Fernando Rodney often works himself in and out of trouble in save situations, but the Mariners closer inherited a most-difficult scenario on Saturday and delivered in Seattle's 9-8 win over the Astros.
Rodney entered the game with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth, the Mariners clinging to a 9-8 lead that had evaporated from 9-2 in alarming fashion, when relievers Dominic Leone and Yoervis Medina struggled.
Rodney missed on his first fastball to Jose Altuve, then fired four straight strikes that Altuve fouled off before getting the diminutive second baseman to fly out to right field. Rodney then hit the first batter he faced in the ninth before retiring the next three Astros in order, two on strikeouts.
"I don't like it, but we had to do it," manager Lloyd McClendon said of the four-out save and first multi-inning appearance Rodney has made this year. "I just don't think he's that type of guy, because he's a high-pitch guy, so having him go more than one is not ideal, but we had to do what we had to do. We didn't have any wiggle room."
Rodney sometimes can be erratic throwing strikes, but catcher Mike Zunino said the 37-year-old was on point with the bases-loaded situation on the way to his seventh save of the season.
"He just attacked the strike zone," Zunino said. "In a situation like that, we had to go right after the guy. There was nowhere to put him. It was a tough guy at the plate with Altuve there and he made some big pitches."
McClendon still miffed after Saturday ejection
HOUSTON -- Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon spent the final three innings of Saturday's 9-8 win over the Astros watching on TV in the visiting clubhouse at Minute Maid Park after getting ejected by home-plate umpire James Hoye.
How did he survive, watching his team build a 9-2 lead and then nearly squander it as the bullpen imploded in what turned out to be a 9-8 win?
"They had to put this thing back on the wall," McClendon said, pointing to an electrical box next to his desk. "Other than that it was fine."
McClendon remained miffed on Sunday morning that he'd been tossed for what he said was merely pointing out from the dugout that Astros manager Bo Porter had sent catcher Jason Castro out to the mound to stall for time after Porter had already made his one legal visit to struggling starter Dallas Keuchel, after the lefty had walked the bases full.
"It was just a situation where I don't think it warranted throwing me out of the ballgame," McClendon said. "But it is what it is. I think he probably took exception to me pointing the rule out to him. After a manager goes out one time, you can't circumvent the rules.
"My problem with the whole thing was the umpire was looking right into the dugout when their manager [indicated] 'Go talk to him.' That's circumventing the rules.
"I just pointed out to him that that can be construed as a trip to the mound. And it says it right in the book. I guess he took exception to me pointing that out and he threw me out. If you really think about it, I could have played that game under protest, because that's in the rule book."
Rule 8.06 in the MLB rulebook states: "If the manager or coach goes to the catcher or infielder and that player then goes to the mound or the pitcher comes to him at his position before there is an intervening play [a pitch or other play] that will be the same as the manager or coach going to the mound. Any attempt to evade or circumvent this rule by the manager or coach going to the catcher or an infielder and then that player going to the mound to confer with the pitcher shall constitute a trip to the mound."
• When Hisashi Iwakuma shut out the Astros for the first two innings of Saturday's 9-8 win, he extended his string of scoreless innings on the road to 27, dating back to the end of 2013. That broke the previous club record of 25 by Brian Holman (1984) and Randy Johnson (1994). The Astros scored two runs off Iwakuma in the third to end that run.
• Zunino walked twice on Saturday, including a bases-loaded pass to drive in a run. Zunino came into the game with just one base on balls in 22 games this season and that was an intentional walk.