By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com Follow @JCameratoNBA
Welcome to the second edition of 1-2-3 Inning, a step inside the Boston Red Sox bullpen and a look at the individuals who make up this cohesive unit. Last week we brought you a unique glimpse at Alfredo Aceves (did you know he wanted to be a dentist?). Now up, Matt Albers.
Albers, 28, signed with the Red Sox this offseason after playing the previous five seasons for the Houston Astros and Baltimore Orioles. Albers started off strong in his first year with the Red Sox, boasting an ERA of 1.50 in April and later throwing 13.1 scoreless innings in July (4-4, 4.28 ERA on the season). But after giving up 16 runs in August (12.34 ERA for the month), he pitched a scoreless 0.2 innings on Tuesdays win against the Yankees, leaving two men on base. With just a month left in the regular season, Albers looks to pick up where he started in April.
He talked to CSNNE.com about embracing the pressure of Fenway Park, playing for his hometown team, and his dream location for a baseball game.
1. Albers was selected by his hometown Houston Astros in the 2001 amateur draft. Even though he had an idea he would be playing for his childhood favorite team, there was so much excitement on that day that years later, he says it seems like a blur.
When I was real little my favorite player was Jose Cruz. I barely remember this but my parents told me stories about how I was running around saying I was him. Then when I was growing up, the Killer Bs were huge, so (Craig) Biggio, (Jeff) Bagwell, even (Lance) Berkman and those guys. I was a big Astros fan.
The Astros drafted me on the intention of me being a draft-and-follow and going to junior college. I had talked to them about that before, so I had a pretty good idea Houston was going to draft me and they said itd probably be on the second day. I talked to a few other teams, but it was really the Astros, my hometown team, that really went after me.
I have a couple of my Astros jerseys at my house. I actually have one from my first Big League start. They were throwbacks jerseys against San Diego. I have this 1970s rainbow stripe Astros jersey. Actually, I think it might be at my parents house but Ive got to steal it back from them.
2. After playing three seasons in Baltimore, where Red Sox fans pack Camden Yards, Albers was familiar with the high pressure environment surrounding the Red Sox. After quickly settling in with his new team, he has found a comfort in Boston that translated on to the mound early on.
When I got here everybody, not just the relievers, was really cool about making me feel welcome. The bullpen is kind of a tight-knit group and thats nice because thats how it needs to be. Youre picking each other up -- one guy goes in and then the next guy and there are runners on base, the bullpen sticks together and I think that makes for a good group.
Pitching wise Ive started throwing my slider a lot more. Being able to throw that to both sides of the plate and also my fastball, I have better command with overall. With that comes comfort when Im out there and having confidence.
Every time we go out there I try not to put any extra pressure on myself because thats really easy to do. You get caught up in the situation and you always have a full house here, a lot going on. Its kind of pressure-packed every outing, which is nice. I enjoy that. So I think just the combination of all those things helps.
You kind of get used to the pressure. Its tough to explain. I think once you go through it more and more -- when I came into the league I was pitching in Houston at home in front of family and friends, that kind of put extra pressure on myself. When youre young, youre trying to find a spot on the team and fit in. I think kind of the same thing here, but just try to focus on pitching and put that out of your mind and not get too caught up in the moment.
3. Albers is a self-admitted low-key guy who likes to return home in the offseason. But if he could pick one place in the world to play ball, it would have a different scenery than Houston.
Ive been to Cabo San Lucas (Mexico), they have really nice weather. Its sunny and has some nice views. A background on the beach, thatd be cool. When I was there it was like 85 degrees and sunny every day. The landscape and the views are pretty nice. Wed probably need a regular mound, not sand, but thatd be pretty nice.
Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.com!JCameratoNBA.