Almora, Jay take their friendship to centre for the Cubs
Jon Jay and Albert Almora Jr. are Miami guys, born and raised. Jay played his college ball for Miami, and Almora committed to the Hurricanes before he signed with the Chicago Cubs out of high school.
Magic City, right in the middle of Wrigley Field.
The Cubs are hoping Jay and Almora can fill their hole in centre field after Dexter Fowler became a free agent and signed with rival St. Louis. Jason Heyward also could slide over from right, but the No. 1 option for the defending World Series champions is a Miami duo who struck up a friendship during off-season training sessions.
“We’ve had a great relationship since,” Jay said before the Cubs worked out Thursday. “We texted last year during the playoffs and we keep tabs on each other, so it’s nice to be able to see him every day and have a familiar face that I have a good relationship with.”
Almora was selected by Chicago with the No. 6 pick in the 2012 amateur draft and made his major league debut last year, hitting .277 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 47 games. He played sparingly in the post-season but grabbed his own World Series moment with one daring dash in Cleveland.
Pinch-running for Kyle Schwarber in Game 7, Almora tagged up and took second when Kris Bryant flied to deep centre for the first out of the 10th inning. After Anthony Rizzo was intentionally walked, Almora scored the go-ahead run on Ben Zobrist’s double.
Almora’s athleticism and smart baserunning helped set up the inning for Chicago, which won its first championship since 1908.
“I’m a student of the game. I love learning,” he said, “so I always listen to everybody and I pick what I feel like that would help me personally.”
The next challenge for the 22-year-old Almora is becoming more disciplined at the plate. He had 20 strikeouts and five walks during his short time in the majors last year.
“Let him play, remind him about certain things, but I don’t think a guy like that you’re ever going to get that level of plate discipline that everybody talks about,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I think it’s going to get better, but he has a knack to put the ball in play, he doesn’t swing and miss a lot. So you got to pretty much ride his strengths if you like him, which I do.”
Chicago Cubs’ Albert Almora Jr. slides into third with a pinch-hit triple off Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Juan Nicasio in the eighth inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh in September 2016.