Almora, Jay take their friend­ship to cen­tre for the Cubs

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS -

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.”

AP PHOTO

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.

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