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Red Sox Notebook

Albers gets mechanical

Reliever works on some changes

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / September 4, 2011

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The first four months of this season were a joy for Matt Albers. As the Red Sox climbed into first place, he was a reliable reliever in the late innings.

“I’ve never really experienced that before,’’ said the 28-year-old righthander, who played with the Astros and Orioles before signing with the Sox as a free agent. “It was a lot of fun.’’

But since Aug. 1, Albers has fallen into a hole. In 12 appearances, he has allowed 19 runs on 21 hits and 8 walks over 12 2/3 innings. His earned run average, once 2.09, sits at 4.69. Albers pitched one inning in Friday night’s 10-0 loss against Texas and gave up three runs.

“He had a bad, tough time,’’ manager Terry Francona said.

Albers is frustrated but is trying to come up with a solution. For now, the idea is to try mixing in his curveball and changeup a little more. He believes hitters have become accustomed to the speed of his fastball and slider.

“I have to take a step back and do something different,’’ he said. “Obviously I need to do something. I also need to throw the hard stuff better and locate it better. I’ve been working on some mechanical changes to keep the ball down.

“If I throw my sinker at the knees, it’s a great pitch. If I leave it up, it’s going to get hit.’’

Albers and Francona insist there is no medical issue that is affecting his performance.

Francona believes Albers can regain the form that made him an important part of the bullpen.

“If you look up at the end of the year and his ERA is a little higher because he had that one stretch, that doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t be that guy again that he’s been for most of the year,’’ the manager said.

Said Albers: “I’m not worried about my stats. I just want to get back to doing what I was doing and help this team win. I know I can do what I was doing before.’’

Albers has never appeared in a postseason game. He’s determined to not give the Sox any reason to leave him off the roster.

“It’s been a lot of fun so far,’’ he said. “The best year I’ve had. I don’t want a few rough outings to mess that up. I’ve got to slow it down and make sure I learn from my mistakes.’’

Two go down Jed Lowrie came out of the game in the fourth inning with what was described as tightness in his left shoulder.

“I don’t think it’s anything other than fatigue,’’ said Lowrie, who was on the disabled list from June 17 to Aug. 8 because of nerve damage in that shoulder. “We’re just being careful.’’

Francona plans to give Lowrie today off. “He’ll certainly be available. That may be me overreacting a bit,’’ he said.

Josh Reddick left the game in the ninth inning after being hit on the left hand by a pitch from Darren Oliver. X-rays were negative.

“Getting hit by a pitch ain’t really that fun,’’ said Reddick, who was 4 for 4 before Oliver threw a fastball inside. “The good thing is we won.’’

The four hits were a career high for Reddick and raised his batting average to .289. He also scored three runs.

Scutaro gets rest Marco Scutaro was out of the starting lineup for the second straight game, but did play the final inning in the field after Reddick came out and Mike Aviles went from shortstop to right field.

That Scutaro was 1 for 14 in his career against Rangers starter Colby Lewis was part of the reason. Francona also wanted to get Scutaro some rest.

“I wanted to give him one more day,’’ Francona said. “We’ll play Marco [today]. I think these two days will really be good for him. He’s a little beat up.’’

Scutaro said he felt fine and wanted to play. “I just work here,’’ he said with a shrug.

Papi plays Cupid Greg Escovedo took his girlfriend, Melissa Cheek, to Fenway Park this weekend. They’re both from Fort Worth, but he’s a Rangers fan and she’s a Sox fan. Escovedo arranged to bring Cheek on the field for batting practice and while there, he proposed to her.

David Ortiz heard what was happening and came out of the dugout to congratulate the couple and lead a round of applause from the fans.

“Give it up, people,’’ he said. “They’re getting married.’’

Ortiz later posed for photographs with his new friends.

“I can’t believe any of this,’’ said Cheek, wiping away tears. “That was amazing. I never expected that. And to have David there. I don’t even know what to say.’’

Escovedo said that while he’ll still root for the Rangers, he has new respect for Ortiz.

“He’s a great guy to do that,’’ Escovedo said. “You hear that he’s a nice guy, and he really is. That was something we’ll never forget.’’

Salty shows speed Jarrod Saltalamacchia had his first career stolen base in the fourth, sneaking to second without a throw being made. “Probably the last one right there,’’ he said. “I may wait to the playoffs.’’ . . . “God Bless America’’ was performed in the seventh inning by a group of children whose fathers are Sox players . . . Kevin Youkilis is 0 for 8 since coming off the disabled list with three strikeouts . . . Clay Buchholz had another throwing session before the game and said his back felt fine . . . Red Sox great Luis Tiant was recognized before the game as a member of the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame . . . Dustin Pedroia will receive the Heart and Hustle Award from the MLB Players Alumni Association before the game today . . . Ryan Lavarnway hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the eighth inning, part of a seven-run frame, as Pawtucket beat Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, 12-7, to clinch the North Division of the International League for the first time since 2003.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter@PeteAbe.

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