O's cautious with Albers, Patton
Pitchers' progress will be carefully monitored at camp
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- They'll forever be linked by a trade and an appendage. Both Matt Albers and Troy Patton appear to be over the shoulder injuries that scuttled their seasons and called their immediate futures into question, but the Orioles will watch them carefully over the coming days and weeks to make sure they're not at risk.
"We're going to be smart," said pitching coach Rick Kranitz. "You try not to put them in situations that are going to tax them too much -- just like anybody else. Put it this way: If I get a chance to give them an extra day, I will, which is fine here, because we have a longer Spring Training and we have the ability to do that. And we have more guys."
Albers and Patton, who were both acquired in last winter's trade for Miguel Tejada, have each thrown two bullpen sessions thus far in Spring Training. That's noteworthy, because both are coming off minor tears in the labrum of their throwing shoulder, an ailment that caused them both to seek different forms of treatment.
Patton already had the injury when he was acquired, and he attempted a strengthening program last spring before ultimately deciding on corrective surgery. Albers, meanwhile, didn't hurt himself until midseason, and he elected not to undergo an operation, opting instead to strengthen the joint and hope it holds firm.
Now, as he goes about his business, Albers can't help but be pleasantly surprised.
"You have no idea until you pick up a ball," Albers said. "But I started throwing in mid-December, light tossing, and I've felt good and haven't had any setbacks. There were a few days where it didn't feel that good, but I had that the year before when I was completely healthy. You go through those before you get to camp, but you don't know. Obviously, there was some worries throwing those bullpen [sessions] and seeing how it will react, but so far, everything has been good."
"I didn't know what to expect," added Kranitz. "All I know is when I talked to Matt in the offseason, he said he felt good. But you look to see if a guy is favoring it or changing something. He's getting after it, which is really nice to see."
Patton, much like Albers, has felt no ill effects from his shoulder. The southpaw threw on Tuesday and said he didn't feel any pain or discomfort, but he also said that he didn't expect the bullpen session to be a challenge.
"I've been throwing bullpen [sessions] in the offseason," Patton said. "Getting in a game will be a little bit of a challenge. Starting and throwing multiple innings will be my first big challenge. Going through a lineup multiple times will be interesting."
"Patton's a little bit off on location, but it's because he hasn't pitched in forever," said Kranitz. "And that's fine, but he feels good and the ball's coming out of his hand well, too. I'm real pleased with that."
Baltimore manager Dave Trembley has said on numerous occasions that he expects Patton to start the year at Triple-A Norfolk to grow accustomed to pitching again, but Albers could corral a bullpen slot if he stays healthy.
"I think we're watching both those guys to see how they rebound," Trembley said. "It's like I asked [Danys] Baez after he threw: It's not not how you feel when you're out there the first day, it's how you feel the next day. Those guys have told me they feel absolutely 100 percent, so that's very encouraging -- not only for them but for us."
Albers said that he's throwing all his pitches effectively and without pain, and he also said that he hasn't had to spend a lot of time in the trainer's room so far. It's just routine maintenance at this point -- cuff work and icing. The hard part now is doing enough work to strengthen his arm without overdoing it and risking aggravating his ailment.
"Once I get my arm loose, it feels fine, but I'm not sure how it's going to react after I've thrown for a little while," said Albers, who spent his time as a bridge reliever and spot starter last season. "That would be the only issue, and I'm not too worried. My arm feels pretty good right now so facing hitters isn't really big for me."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.