Albers impresses in Orioles debut
Righty acquired in Tejada trade gets eight straight outs in relief
BALTIMORE -- Matt Albers may not be starting, but he pitched well in his Orioles debut Monday. The right-hander is expected to serve as a swingman this season, and he got eight outs in relief of Jeremy Guthrie on Opening Day. Albers didn't allow any hits and didn't walk anyone, stabilizing the game and getting Baltimore through the late innings.
"I wasn't trying to do too much," he said Monday. "[I was] just trying to throw my sinker down-and-away, and then mix in some breaking balls. That's what I was able to do -- move the fastball in and out a little bit, and that worked pretty good for me."
Albers, who was acquired from Houston as part of the five-player haul for Miguel Tejada, was in the running for a rotation slot all the way until the last week of Spring Training. Baltimore manager Dave Trembley eventually opted for Brian Burres, which turned Albers and his sinkerball into the team's best option for long-relief work.
That wasn't the scenario in his season debut, but Trembley turned to him anyway. Albers came in with two runners on base and a four-run deficit in the sixth inning, and promptly escaped on a fielder's choice and a caught stealing. He got four more groundouts over the course of the night, prompting Trembley to mention him off-the-cuff in his postgame remarks.
"You've got to like the way Albers pitched," he said. "That's what we're looking for out of him."
The Orioles also acquired Luke Scott, Dennis Sarfate, Troy Patton and Mike Costanzo in the Tejada trade, but they'll have to wait for contributions from the latter two players. Patton is on the disabled list while recovering from a season-ending shoulder operation, and Costanzo is beginning the year at Triple-A Norfolk.
Albers, who had never been part of an Opening Day before, said that he enjoyed the atmosphere. The 25-year-old also said that he expected to be nervous, but was able to control himself in front of a capacity crowd at Camden Yards.
"I know what nerves can do to me," he said shortly after Baltimore's 6-2 loss to Tampa Bay. "I wanted to come out and just try to relax as much as I can, feel as comfortable as I can on the mound and just go after guys.
"Once they called me in, I felt pretty comfortable just coming out there and throwing strikes."
Albers threw 19 of his 26 pitches for strikes and swiftly mowed down Tampa Bay's lineup. He got four straight groundouts at one point -- two in the seventh inning and two in the eighth -- from the heart of the road team's batting order, and ended his outing by striking out Eric Hinske, who had hit a solo home run off Guthrie earlier in the game.
And perhaps most importantly, Albers got his feet wet with his new team and earned some trust from his manager.
"That was probably the best I've seen Albers with his location all spring," said Trembley. "He didn't throw a ball above the thighs. Everything was down and his breaking stuff was sharp and late."
"It's always nice to get called out," added Albers. "You've got to be ready all the time, but it's definitely nice to get in there, know that I can throw strikes and do well. Hopefully, I can keep it up. It's a long season."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.