Q&A with Andrew Albers
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Q&A with Andrew Albers
Entering his fifth professional season, Rochester Red Wings pitcher Andrew Albers has been one of the biggest reasons for the teamís recent success. Albers is 10-4 with an ERA of 2.97 to go along with 105 strikeouts and just 29 walks. He was one of two Red Wings selected to represent the International League in the All-Star game. This has been a breakout season for Albers. After batting practice on Monday, and doing another interview with play-by-play broadcaster Josh Whetzel, I had the chance to talk to him about his season, the All-Star game, playing in the SEC and the dramatic turn-around in Rochester.
Photo: Bare Antolos/RedWingsBaseball.com
Chris Fee: Can you talk a little bit about your success this year? You were voted to the All-Star team and picked up your 10th win last night (Sunday). To what do you credit your success this season?
Andrew Albers: Itís been pretty exciting. I think a big credit should go to my teammates. Theyíve been outstanding behind me defensively, as a pitcher you donít get wins unless they put up runs either. Iíve had a lot of starts this year where theyíve been really good. Theyíve put up 6Ö. 7Ö. 8 runs early, thatís made my job a lot easier to just go out and be aggressive and let them play behind me. Theyíve been outstanding this year, and thatís where the credit goes is to all those guys.
Fee: Would you say this is your best season so far professionally?
AA: Itís certainly up there. I had a pretty good season in independent ball as a reliever, and had a good college season as a senior, but itís certainly up there. This is obviously the highest level that Iíve ever played at, and to have this kind of success here, Iím excited and just trying to go forward with it.
CF: Staying on the team success for a minute, obviously the start to this season was not what you had hoped for. But now you guys are in the hunt for a playoff spot and really turned the season around. Whatís different? Whatís changed for the Red Wings?
AA: We have a great group of guys here, not to say that we didnít at the start of the year, but itís one of those things where everyone is going to have a stretch like that. Unfortunately ours started at the beginning of the year and it looks bad. You can take 15 games out of any teams schedule; theyíll have three or four wins. You look at Pawtucket (Red Sox) who is in first place in the division right now; they just lost 10 out of 11 or 10 out of 12.
CF: How was the trip to the All-Star game, how did you find out you were selected to the team?
AA: I actually found out from a teammate, he had the list there. We were having lunch at Chipotle, he said ďCongratulations.Ē I said, ďfor what?Ē He said, ďFor making the All-Star teamĒ, so that was actually how I found out. It was such an honor, there are so many great players in this league, so many future big leaguers, guys who are going to be up there for a long time to come, to be included in that group is such an honor.
The trip itself was long, but it was well worthwhile. Reno did a great job hosting that event; it was a first class set up. They did a great job for us players with the derby (Home Run) and the events that they had going on around that. It was a really great time, I really enjoyed it and thankful to have the opportunity.
CF: Was that your first All-Star Game?
AA: First All-Star game that I was able to attend. I was selected to go to the Double-A one last year, but unfortunately came down with an injury right before hand so I wasnít able to make that trip, but it was a lot of fun.
CF: You have quite a few more strikeouts this year in compared to years past. Why do you think that is? More free swinging hitters in the league? Is there a strikeout pitch that youíve been working on?
AA: You know, to be honest I really donít know. Iíve been able to finish guys off a little bit more frequently this year, and thatís been nice. Really Iím not a strikeout guy, Iím just trying to have them put it in play early. With two strikes Iím still going to try to pound the zone, theyíve taken a few, and Iíve been able to get some swings and misses, and I guess its added up to that. I couldnít tell you exactly why, but Iím happy to be where it is, itís always nice when they donít put the ball in play at times too. Sometimes those strikeouts are big, and they help you get out of some jams, but at the same time thatís not what Iím looking to do. Iím looking to get the ball in play and let that great defense I have behind me make the play and hopefully that lets me last longer during the game.
CF: You were originally drafted out of high school by the Milwaukee Brewers. What made you decide to say no to them and attend the University of Kentucky?
AA: For me, it was a decision where I didnít feel like I was ready for pro baseball; I was a little bit immature, mentally and physically. I came out of high school at a buck-sixty seven soaking wet sort of deal, so I was a pretty skinny guy, never really lifted and was very raw as a pitcher. I had never lived on my own, I felt like it was really important for me to get the support system in college. I was really fortunate to get a good offer from the University of Kentucky, I felt really comfortable there, I thought they had an outstanding coaching staff and even though things didnít work out how I would have hoped, as far as junior year, and getting drafted. I donít regret the decision at all, I think it was the right one for me, and I was really happy with the time I spent in Kentucky.
CF: I spoke to Antoan Richardson earlier in the year; he said that the SEC is the best baseball conference in America. Would you agree with that? How did your time there prepare you for professional baseball?
AA: I would probably agree with him, itís one of the premiere conferences every year; top to bottom you donít get any easy games. To be honest, Iíd say pitching in that league was tough, because they had the old bats, it was probably tougher than Rookie ball or Low-A, Short season, I certainly had a lot more trouble there than I had in those leagues. There are future major leaguers in that league every year, there are a lot of good players in that league too, and theyíre all over the place. Itís tough baseball, itís a grind, and like I said back when they had the old bats, where you didnít necessarily have to square it up to get doubles and triples, it was a challenge as a pitcher. It allowed me to grow, but I had some stumbling blocks, I failed at times, and it was a matter of learning from those failures and itís part of the reason Iíve been able to have success at these higher levels. If something goes wrong, Iíve been there before, itís happened before, and Iíve been able to learn from it and keep moving forward.
CF: In 2010 you played for the Quebec Capitales in the Can-Am league. How would you compare that level of baseball to affiliated ball?
AA: Independent ball, it's good baseball, I had a lot of fun there; it was all about winning though, which was nice to go back to. In the minors, you want to win, but itís tough not to have those selfish motivations at times, you want to do well but your ultimate goal is to get to the big leagues. The baseball itself was pretty good, High A or Double-A level, you get some older guys whoíve been around for a while, you have some guys that have played in the big leagues before. Then you have some guys who havenít played past rookie ball or whatever, so thereís a little bit of a mix in that league, but itís not bad baseball. It was challenge for me coming off of Tommy John Surgery, not sure how the arm would react. It was a really good challenge for me trying to make it through that season, and get my first taste, playing professional baseball every day, it was a great experience.
CF: Quite a few of your teammates are being called up to Minnesota. Do you look at that and think, ďWhen is my shot going to happen?Ē Or do you just take care of business here and know that if you do well, youíll get the shot.
AA: For me, itís all about taking care of things that I can control, and not worry about things that are out of my control. If that happens, Iíd obviously love the opportunity and would be very grateful for that, but at the same time Iím worried about whatís going to happen during my next start. If I can continue to get ready for that, continue to get guys out, those things will take care of themselves. Iím all about trying to win here, with this team, trying to get this team to win, we have a great group of guys here and weíre getting close together. If that happens down the road, Iíd be ecstatic about it, but if you start worrying about that youíll get stressed out pretty easily. Itís not something that Iím too concerned, if I keep doing my job here and getting guys out, hopefully Iíll get a shot later on down the road.
CF: What are your goals for the rest of this season. Is there anything youíre working on in particular, or just keep doing what youíre doing?
AA: My goal is to stay healthy, thatís always the biggest thing. There are so many great players that go down because of injury, and theyíre just never the same, that can happen in an instant. I found that out about three years ago when I had Tommy John Surgery, it was tough to come back from and you never know when it could happen, so thatís goal number one. After that itís just trying to stay consistent, trying to continue what Iím doing, and build off of that and maybe improve a little bit, and maybe Iíll get that shot later this year or next year, whenever it happens to be. Itís all about fine tuning your skills, if your command isnít where you wanted it to be last time out, thatís what you focus on the next week. Itís all about making adjustments from week to week, and if I can continue to do that and build off my success I have a chance to succeed.