Cubs News

How Yency Almonte’s past helped him overcome early struggles, develop into fixture in Cubs’ bullpen

3 weeks agoAndy Martinez

Yency Almonte entered the year feeling great.

It was 2023, his second season in Los Angeles and he was coming off a strong end to 2022 where he posted a 1.02 ERA in 33 games for the Dodgers. Almonte wanted to build off that and take the next step in his career.

Then, in his second outing, came some struggles. Two outings later, he allowed a pair of runs in 0.2 innings and his ERA ballooned to 8.10.

“As a pitcher, that’s sacred to us,” the 29-year-old said. “We wanna have the best ERA we can have at the end of the year.”

So, Almonte began to press. He wanted to lower that number — and fast.

The righty was chasing results. In one pitch, he sought to pick up 4 outs — he wanted to do the impossible. That led to bad habits, even worse results and eventually an injury that hampered him towards the end of the year.

His ERA spiked to as high as 9.28 and he finished the season with a 5.06 ERA.

“I feel like I was looking way too far ahead into the results rather than going pitch-to-pitch,” Almonte admitted. “I wanna do more to try to make up for the mistakes I was making, and I think that was the wrong way to go about it.”

Fast forward to this season and there was an all-too-familiar feeling for the reliever. On Opening Day, he allowed a run in a third of an inning, then in his fourth outing of the year, he allowed 3 runs in another third of an inning and the ERA was at a whopping 18.00.

But instead of chasing unreasonable results, Almonte remembered the approach of his former teammate Mookie Betts.

App Promo Dansby Swinging

“They didn’t dwell on a bad day,” Almonte said. “If Mookie had a 0-for-4, he didn’t care. He was like, ‘All right, tomorrow I’m gonna go get 3 hits.’”

Almonte took that mindset — and he’s passed it on to his fellow relievers.

“One thing that I try to preach to the younger guys — and I say it every day when I get to the bullpen — it’s just today’s a new day,” Almonte said. “Yesterday, I couldn’t get an out, today I’m gonna strike out the side. It might not happen, but it’s just that positive self-talk is gonna allow me to just go and do my job.”

So, when things went wrong early in the season, Almonte took a deep breath, looked at what was going wrong and sought a way to improve. The issues stemmed from his mechanics.

“He felt like he was moving a little different than he was in Spring Training and so kind of got him on a nice routine of honing in some of that stuff,” pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said. “When that happens and the mechanics get pretty consistent, you start to see the command get consistent.”

And the results followed.

Since that outing against Colorado, Almonte has pitched 8 innings without allowing an earned run, striking out 12 and walking just 3 in that span. He’s developed into a trusted reliever for manager Craig Counsell, being deployed in leverage situations and used in any inning to stymie rallies.

That all stemmed from the mental adjustments he learned last season and his offseason work in adding a cutter. The pitch helped make him a more versatile option, allowing him to become more platoon-neutral.

“I think [the cutter] a nice addition to his repertoire to left-handed hitters,” Hottovy said. “He’s pitched in some big moments. We’ve used him a lot of up-downs too — come in get out of an inning and then go back out. So, I think he’s been able to handle that really well.”

That success is thanks to experience in the league. The struggles he went through in 2023 were a learning experience and allowed him to be a weapon out of the Cubs bullpen in 2024.

“It allowed me to not dwell on it so much and just go about my way and just figure out what was causing the issue,” Almonte said. “[In 2023], I [wanted] do more to try to make up for the mistakes I was making, and I think that was the wrong way to go about it.

“I think this year, I slowed down, I took a deep breath and was like ‘OK, what’s causing these issues and what can I do to make it better quicker?’”

Don’t Miss Out On The Action!

Sign up for the Marquee Sports Network Newsletter today for all the latest Cubs news, plus upcoming Marquee programming and much more!

Newsletter Signup
Consent *
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.