In part one of Sports Media 101's interview with Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Andrew Albers, he discussed his journey to the MLB, leaving off discussing the impact his minor league coaches had on him. In the second part of the interview with Albers, he talks to SM101's interviewer Mike Phillips about keys to his game and what's next for him in the season ahead.
As a native Canadian, Albers got to pitch for the Canadian National team in 2011. Albers helped the squad win a Bronze Medal in the Baseball World Cup and a Gold Medal in the Pan-Am Games. Albers ended up pitching 6.2 innings in the gold medal game for Canada that season. The experience was a positive one for him.
Q: What was it like to pitch for the Canadian national team in 2011?
Albers: That was thrilling. It was a thrilling experience. It’s one of those things where it’s a lot of fun when you get asked or invited to play for your country, and that’s one of those things you don’t take lightly. I really enjoyed that experience, it was a great team atmosphere, we had a lot of success there. It was a lot of fun pitching in the World Cup and then the Pan-Am Games right after that, and we were able to do really well. It was a great summer, one of those times I’ll never forget and it was just a lot of fun.
Albers has had a lot of success in his career in spite of not being a truly overpowering pitcher. Albers’ repertoire consists of a fastball that sits in the mid 80’s and several good off-speed pitches. Albers explained how he was able to have success without dynamic pitches in his arsenal.
Q: What’s been your key to getting professional hitters out without the overpowering fastball?
Albers: For me, it’s all about getting ahead in the count. Once you’re ahead in the count, you kind of control it a little bit. You can get guys to chase your pitch a lot more, or at least then they have to swing at a pitcher’s pitch. To me, its all about getting ahead and trying to keep the ball out of the middle of the plate and force early contact so that they don’t see me too often. I like to have something left that they haven’t seen the second and third time around. That’s been my key to success and hopefully it will continue to be going forward.
Albers was promoted to the major leagues on August 3rd, 2013 to replace Scott Diamond in the rotation. Albers won his first two starts easily, throwing 8.1 shutout innings against the Kansas City Royals on August 6th and tossing a complete game shutout against the Cleveland Indians five days later.
Q: What was it like to come up to the big leagues and have immediate success in the form of the 18.1 shutout innings?
Albers: It was pretty incredible. Its one of those things you hope will happen, but you never really think it will. To have the first two starts go the way they did, it was pretty incredible. It was just one of those things where everything went right those two nights, and it was an indescribable feeling. You wait so long to get to the big leagues and then you go out there and do that. It was just incredible. It was a lot of fun. They’re a couple of nights I’ll never forget. Those just don’t happen when you get to that level and you try to enjoy them when they do because you realize they’re pretty special.
When he made his debut, Albers became the first major league baseball player from Saskatchewan since the 1990’s.
Q: What was it like to become the first player to make the major leagues from Saskatchewan in nearly 20 years?
Albers: It was a pretty big deal. Its been pretty neat coming back home having people say “Hey, we’ve been watching you all year. We haven’t watched baseball in a long time but we watched every one of your games” and things like that. That part of it has been really neat and the support from them that was coming in throughout the season and the entire province was really incredible. It touched me in a special way and I was really thankful to have all of them behind me. It was really awesome going through the season knowing that everyone back home was watching and supporting me and hoping for me to do well.
Albers was named the Twins’ minor league pitcher of the year in 2013. Albers posted a 2.86 ERA in 22 starts for Triple-A Rochester, earning him the title over several other talented arms in the organization.
Q: What was it like to be named the Twins’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year for last season?
Albers: I was really pleased. It was one of those things that is a tremendous honor. There’s a lot of good pitchers in the organization right now, a lot of guys who had tremendous seasons. For them to recognize me as the guy who did the best is pretty incredible. I’m really thankful to the Twins for every opportunity that they’ve given me. They’ve really stuck with me when nobody else really would and I’m just so thankful for that. Like I’ve said, for them to recognize me as the one who stood out the most when a lot of guys did some really great things, it means a lot to me.
Reports have come out recently that Albers may move on from the Twins for this coming season. MLB.com is reporting that Albers has drawn interest from the Hanwha Eagles of the Korean Baseball Association. Albers reportedly will pitch in South Korea in 2014 contingent on the Twins agreeing to buy out his contract, which is possible given the amount of money the Twins invested in starting pitching this winter. Albers commented on the rumors for us.
Q: Can you comment on recent reports that you may be pitching in South Korea next season?
Albers: What I can tell you is that there has been some interest expressed by one of the teams over there. Right now, there’s nothing that’s been finalized or anything like that. It would be an opportunity that I would have to think about seriously depending on what kind of offer I receive. Its one of those things where there are some steps that have to be taken before we get to that point.
Q: What are your goals for the upcoming season wherever you end up pitching?
Albers: The goal, first and foremost, is that you’ve got to try and stay healthy. That’s the primary goal because you can’t do anything if you’re not healthy. Doing what I can to give myself the best chance to stay healthy and compete at the highest level whenever I can is the primary goal. After that, we’ll see what happens. Its all about improving. I can improve in small things whether its changeup command or fastball command or anything like that. You try and find small part of the game you can improve on, like how I can develop more consistency with my secondary pitches. That’s going to be something I’m going to try and work on moving forward.
If you would like to follow Andrew Albers’ exploits this season, be sure to check out his blog at: www.canadianbaseballnetwork.com/author/andrewalbers/
Interview conducted and article written by Mike Phillips.
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