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.