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3/13/2014 2:32 A.M. ET

Double-A hitting coach Howell is new Triple-A manager

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Mariners filled their managerial opening at Triple-A Tacoma by promoting former Major League third baseman Roy Howell from his previous position as hitting coach for Double-A Jackson.

Howell, 60, replaces Rich Donnelly, who was brought in as the Mariners' third-base coach when John Stearns stepped down for health reasons.

"Roy is a very accomplished baseball guy, both as a player and as a coach," Mariners director of player development Chris Gwynn said. "He is well respected in our organization for the work he has done the past two years. His expertise in hitting and his familiarity with many of the players we will have at Tacoma make him a great fit for us at that level."

Howell, who spent 11 seasons in the Majors with the Rangers, Brewers and Blue Jays, was a coach in the Padres' system for six years and returned to coaching with a Major League franchise when he became the hitting coach for Class A High Desert in 2012. In his two years working with the Mavericks' hitters, High Desert set franchise highs in several categories in 2012 and ranked third in all the Minor Leagues in runs score (827) in 2013.

First impression: Almonte leading off with regularity

PEORIA, Ariz. -- For the ninth time this spring, the name at the top of the Mariners order written up by manager Lloyd McClendon on Wednesday was Abraham Almonte.

Whether that means Almonte is in prime position to become the team's leadoff man and center fielder to start the season remains to be seen, but it's clear McClendon is impressed with the 24-year-old with the stocky build and plus speed.

"I like what he brings to the table," McClendon said. "His numbers don't show it right now, but he's made consistent contact, he hasn't struck out a lot, he brings speed from both sides of the plate. He can bunt, he can run down balls in center. He's in the mix. I'm not guaranteeing anything, but I like what I see."

Almonte played all 10 innings of Wednesday night's 8-7 comeback victory over the Cubs, leading off the 10th with a single and scoring the winning run. He went 1-for-5 with a walk and now has a .133 average through 30 at-bats things spring.

Short hops

• Manager Lloyd McClendon said he knows it's tough for Corey Hart to sit out a few spring games after missing all of last season following surgery on both knees, but with the veteran experiencing some forearm soreness and back stiffness, the skipper is going to err on the side of caution. "We've got to be careful with his progress, and that's why I want to take it slowly," McClendon said. "He's been off for over a year. These things are to be expected."

Charlie Furbush, who had been battling biceps soreness, made his first appearance since March 3 on Wednesday, allowing two runs (one earned) in two-thirds of an inning vs. the Cubs. He threw 21 pitches, which McClendon said was one over the number the club wanted him to throw.

• With Wednesday's night game, the Mariners played their seventh game in five days, a stretch that McClendon said has shown him something about his club. "I'm proud of the way my guys have gone through this stretch," McClendon said. "This has been a tough stretch for us. ... The guys never complained, they went about their business, they understood and I'm very appreciative of that."

Dustin Ackley went 1-for-2 with two runs scored and now has recorded a hit in nine of his 10 spring games.

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnSchlegelMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.