1-2-3 Inning: Matt Albers

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1-2-3 Inning: Matt Albers

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.

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Chris Sale brings with him to Boston some attitude. He also brings a measure of defiance and, perhaps, a little bit of crazy.

All of which the Red Sox starting staff just may need. And if Sale pitches as he has for much of the past five years, he'll probably be celebrated for it.

I still wonder how it will all play here, especially if he underachieves.

What would we do to him locally if he refused to pitch because he didn't like a certain kind of uniform variation the team was going with? What would we say if he not only refused to pitch, but took a knife to his teammates' uniforms and the team had to scrap the promotion? Sale did exactly that in Chicago last year, after which he threw his manager under the bus for not standing by his players and attacked the team for putting business ahead of winning.

All because he didn't want to wear an untucked jersey?

"(The White Sox throwback uniforms) are uncomfortable and unorthodox,'' said Sale at the time. "I didn't want to go out there and not be at the top of my game in every aspect that I need to be in. Not only that, but I didn't want anything to alter my mechanics. ... There's a lot of different things that went into it.''

Wearing a throwback jersey would alter his mechanics? Was that a joke? It's hard to imagine he would get away with that in Boston.

Ditto for his support of Adam LaRoche and his involvement of that goofy story last March.
 
LaRoche, you'll remember, retired when the White Sox had the nerve to tell him that his 14-year-old son could not spend as much time around the team as he had grown accustomed to. Sale responded by pitching a fit.

“We got bald-face lied to by someone we’re supposed to be able to trust,'' said Sale of team president Kenny Williams. ``You can’t come tell the players it was the coaches and then tell the coaches it was the players, and then come in and say something completely different. If we’re all here to win a championship, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen.”

On what planet does allowing a 14-year-old kid in a clubhouse have anything to do with winning a title? In what universe does a throwback jersey have anything to do with mechanics? If David Price had said things that stupid last year, he'd still be hearing about it. And it won't be any different for Sale.

Thankfully, Sale's defiance and feistiness extends to the mound. Sale isn't afraid to pitch inside and protect his teammates, leading the American League in hit batsmen each of the last two years. He doesn't back down and loves a fight. And while that makes him sound a little goofy off the field, it should play well on it.

In the meantime, the Sox better hope he likes those red alternate jerseys they wear on Fridays.

E-mail Felger at mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 FM. The simulcast appears daily on CSN.

With trade rumors finally over, Sale shifts attention to dominating in Boston

With trade rumors finally over, Sale shifts attention to dominating in Boston

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Chris Sale had been the subject of so many trade rumors for the past year that he admitted feeling somewhat like "the monkey in the middle.”

On Tuesday, the rumors became reality when Sale learned he was being shipped to the Red Sox in exchange for a package of four prospects.
    
It meant leaving the Chicago White Sox, the only organization he'd known after being drafted 13th overall by Chicago in 2010. Leaving, he said, is "bittersweet.''
     
Now, he can finally move forward.
     
"Just to have the whole process out of the way and get back to some kind of normalcy will be nice,” said Sale Wednesday morning in a conference call with reporters.

Sale had been linked in trade talks to many clubs, most notably the Washington Nationals, who seemed poised to obtain him as recently as Monday night.

Instead, Sale has changed his Sox from White to Red.

"I'm excited,” he said. "You're talking about one of the greatest franchises ever. I'm excited as anybody. I don't know how you couldn't be. I've always loved going to Boston, pitching in Boston. (My wife and I) both really like the city and (Fenway Park) is a very special place.”
     
It helps that Sale lives in Naples, Fla., just 20 or so miles from Fort Myers, the Red Sox' spring training base. Sale played his college ball at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.
     
"Being able to stay in our house a couple of (more) months,” gushed Sale, “it couldn't have worked out better personally or professionally for us.”
     
Sale joins a rotation with two Cy Young Award winners (David Price and reigning winner Rick Porcello), a talented core of mostly younger position players and an improved bullpen.

"There's no reason not to be excited right now,” said Sale. "You look at the talent on this team as a whole... you can't ask for much more.”

Sale was in contact with Price Tuesday, who was the first Red Sox player to reach out. He also spoke with some mutual friends of Porcello.

That three-headed monster will carry the rotation, and the internal competition could lift them all to new heights.
     
"The good thing in all of this,'' Sale said, "is that I can definitely see a competition (with) all of us pushing each others, trying to be better. No matter who's pitching on a (given) night, we have as good or better chance the next night. That relieves some of the pressure that might build on some guys (who feel the need to carry the team every start).”

But Sale isn't the least bit interested in being known as the ace of the talented trio.

"I don’t think that matters,” he said. "When you have a group of guys who come together and fight for the same purpose, nothing else really matters. We play for a trophy, not a tag.”

Sale predicted he would be able to transition from Chicago to Boston without much effort, and didn't seem overwhelmed by moving to a market where media coverage and fan interest will result in more scrutiny.

"It's fine, it's a part of it, it's reality,” he said. "I'm not a big media guy. I'm not on Twitter. I'm really focused on the in-between-the-lines stuff. That's what I love, playing the game of baseball. Everything else will shake out.”

After playing before small crowds and in the shadow of the  Cubs in Chicago, Sale is ready to pitch before sellout crowds at Fenway.

"I'm a firm believer that energy can be created in ballparks,” he said. "I don't think there’s any question about it. When you have a packed house and everyone's on their feet in the eighth inning, that gives every player a jolt.”