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Veteran catcher Alomar seeking return to majors

When he left Las Vegas in 1989 after capturing consecutive Pacific Coast League Most Valuable Player awards, Sandy Alomar Jr. thought he had seen the last of the minor leagues.

He was wrong, but that’s OK with the 40-year-old catcher, especially if playing in the minors leads to another trip to the major leagues.

Alomar was back catching at Cashman Field on Saturday night as a member of the New Orleans Zephyrs, the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Mets, who signed the six-time All-Star to a minor league contract in February.

“I didn’t think I’d be playing back in the minor leagues ever again, but it’s happening,” the 6-foot-4-inch, 240-pounder said. “You’ve got to take pride aside and do whatever you have to do to get back (to the big leagues).

“Coming back here is not a big deal to me. I enjoy playing, whether it’s the big leagues or Triple A. This is a fun time for me.”

Alomar said he was looking forward to returning to Las Vegas, where his career took off.

“It’s kind of fun,” he said. “This is great. This is where I started booming. Las Vegas made it easy for me to grow as a baseball player and make it to the big leagues.”

Alomar, who was stuck behind San Diego Padres catcher Benito Santiago when he was with the Stars, was traded to Cleveland with Carlos Baerga for Joe Carter before the 1990 season.

Alomar won American League Rookie of the Year honors that season, along with a Gold Glove, and was the first rookie to start an All-Star Game.

A career .274 hitter, Alomar had his best season in 1997, when he posted career highs with a .324 batting average, 21 home runs, 83 RBIs and a 30-game hitting streak.

Alomar, whose father, Sandy Sr., is a third-base coach for the Mets, has been hampered by injuries throughout his career. Since leaving Cleveland as a free agent in 2001, he has seen limited action for the Chicago White Sox, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Alomar hit .278 with 17 RBIs in 46 games with the Dodgers and White Sox last season.

“I was at home getting ready to hang it up when the Mets called and wanted me to go to camp,” he said. “I’m playing more than I’ve been playing in the past backing up in the big leagues, and I feel good for playing that much.”

Alomar, who said he might pursue coaching when he retires, went 1-for-3 in Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the 51s (16-19) and is hitting .295 (13-for-44) in 14 games for New Orleans (17-20).

• NOTE — Pitcher Miguel Pinango was called up from Class-A Inland Empire to start against New Orleans, and pitcher Matt Riley was optioned to Ogden in rookie ball.

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