FORT MYERS, Fla. — Terry Francona has been saying a lot of complimentary things about righthanded reliever Matt Albers lately, so much so so that it appears he stands a good chance of making the Opening Day roster.
In seven appearances, Albers has allowed two runs on seven hits over 7.1 innings. He has struck out eight without a walk.
The 28-year-old had a 4.52 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP in 62 appearances for Baltimore last season. The Orioles non-tendered him on Dec. 4 and the Red Sox signed him less than two weeks later to a one-year, $875,000 deal.
Theo Epstein said the Red Sox scouting reports noted Albers had an above average sinker that he threw with good velocity. That made him intriguing.
“We wanted to acquire him and see if we could get him focused on attacking the zone with his power sinker,” the GM said. “He’s been impressive with this approach thus far.”
The timing also proved right.
“One of the things in my favor was they moved the non-tender day up. We were able to talk to all the teams interested at the winter meetings and get a feel for it,” Albers said. “One the Red Sox were interested, it wasn’t hard for me.
“Playing against them, going to Fenway is one of the better places to pitch. The atmosphere is great, it’s sold-out every night and loud. The fans are passionate. At Camden Yards, it seemed like 70 percent of the fans were rooting for the Red Sox when they were in town. That made it an easy decision for me.”
A former starter in the Astros organization, Albers feels he still is developing as a pitcher.
“I’m kind of building on last year a little bit, working on throwing my slider and curveball to both sides of the plate. I think I’ve done that pretty well,” he said. ‘[Pitching coach Curt Young] is telling me to trust my fastball. Sometimes I get in a mode where I throw too many off-speed pitches and get behind in the count.”
Albers is fighting for a spot in the bullpen with several others, primarily Scott Atchison. He is out of minor-league options, which could play in his favor if the Red Sox want to stockpile relievers.
“I’ve been in this position the last few years with Baltimore. I had to earn a spot. Nothing is too different. I’ll try to pitch my best and see what happens,” he said. “It’s out of your hands, but I feel like I’m durable and I can contribute.”
He also hopes his experience will be a factor.
“I’ve been in this division for three years. Nothing is going to intimidate me. I’ve faced a lot of these guys. There are a lot of good hitters, I know what to expect,” he said. “I can help this team.”