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Almonte starts in center field upon arrival

Almonte starts in center field upon arrival

SAN DIEGO -- New acquisition Abraham Almonte made his Padres debut on Friday night, as manager Bud Black inserted Almonte into the No. 8 spot in the lineup as the starting center fielder for the opener of their three-game series against Atlanta.

Almonte was acquired on Thursday when the Padres sent Chris Denorfia to Seattle, and Black will look to have Almonte fill a similar role, though Almonte brings a little more speed and the ability to hit from both sides.

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"I like the versatility in the outfield, I like the switch-hitting component," Black said. "He has the leading-off capability with a little bit of speed to steal a base."

Almonte earned the Mariners' starting center fielder job out of Spring Training after posting a .264/.313/.403 line in 25 games in 2013, but he had a poor opening month. He struck out in more than a third of his plate appearances and batted just .198 with one homer and three stolen bases in 27 games before being sent down to Triple-A Tacoma on May 5, where he stayed until Thursday.

Though Seattle might have given Almonte another chance to prove himself during a playoff race when rosters expand in September, the 25-year-old said he was happy when he heard about the trade. He should fit in with the Padres' National League style of play predicated on small ball and strong defense.

"When you get traded, it's because somebody wants you," Almonte said. "I think here I get a big chance to play the game that I like to play, the way I feel comfortable."

After his initial struggles this year, Almonte fared better in the Minors. He had a slash line of .267/.333/.390 in 72 Triple-A games with six homers and seven stolen bases in 11 attempts. He also struck out in just 21.6 percent of his plate appearances, a vast improvement from his stint in the Majors.

"The last couple months I feel better than my first month in the big leagues," Almonte said. "I started seeing the ball better, I feel more comfortable at the plate."

Almonte will likely split time in center with Will Venable and Alexi Amarista over the next couple of weeks as Cameron Maybin completes his 25-game suspension for two positive amphetamine tests. He could also slide over to the corners with Carlos Quentin on the disabled list, and Black indicated he'll use Almonte in late-game double-switches because of his defensive abilities.

"We'll get him in there tonight, try to get him up to speed as quickly as possible," Black said. "It's a whirlwind for these players when you come to a new team. New set of signs, everything is new. It takes a little bit to catch up, but players are conditioned for these sorts of responses."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. Will Laws is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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