MINNEAPOLIS — Andrew Albers had finished his postgame session with the media on Monday, fresh off pitching a shutout in his second career start, but he came back to the field to see a few friends who had made the trip from Canada.
Albers’ buddies weren’t the only ones who wanted a piece of the Twins left-hander, as about 20 or so autograph seekers stayed around after the game to grab Albers’ signature. Just two games into his big league career, Albers gladly obliged and stayed out by the seats near first base until well after the Target Field lights had turned off.
“It was a pretty neat feeling,” Albers said. “It’s neat to have that experience to get to go through that. I’m just trying to enjoy it.”
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There has been plenty for Albers to enjoy during his brief stint in the majors. The 27-year-old Saskatchewan native pitched a shutout in just his second outing, running his scoreless innings streak to 17 1/3 innings to open his career.
The day after his impressive debut last week in which he fell two outs shy of a shutout, Albers spent nearly three hours doing media interviews. Much of that was with Canadian media back home who were enamored by what Albers has been able to do.
“It’s been a little bit of a whirlwind,” Albers said. “It’s been hectic with all the media requests and things like that, kind of a new experience. I’ve just been trying to go along with it and enjoy the ride.”
The left-hander was called up earlier this month and debuted on Aug. 6 in Kansas City. He pitched 8 1/3 scoreless innings and didn’t have quite enough to earn the shutout. He did get his first big league win in his first big league start, though, and those in Canada and Minnesota took notice.
Six days later, Albers did the same — only he one-upped himself. This time he completed the shutout, the first by a Minnesota pitcher this year. Even a few days after his shutout, Albers hasn’t yet been quite able to comprehend just what it means to have pitched 17 1/3 scoreless innings to begin his career.
“I think I’m trying to ignore that, just trying to keep going and not worry about that,” Albers said. “It’s something that it’s been pretty special. When you take a look at it at the end of the season, I’m sure it’ll sink in and I’ll be like, ‘Holy smokes, I can’t believe that just happened.’ But right now I’m still trying to stay focused, trying to get ready for the next start and go out there and try and compete and give the team a chance to win.”
Albers has become accustomed to tuning out distractions or things that aren’t in his control. That was certainly the case earlier this year when he was putting up impressive numbers at Triple-A Rochester — an 11-5 record and a 2.86 ERA — but wasn’t getting a call-up. Twins fans had been clamoring for months to see pitching prospect Kyle Gibson get called up from Rochester, but there were barely any whispers of the previously anonymous Albers.
That was fine with Albers, who continued to go about his business in Rochester and finally got his chance as a result.
“Everyone should have been hyping up Kyle Gibson. The guy’s going to have a great career here,” Albers said. “We understand that, and that’s fine. For me, it’s not about that. It’s not about fame. It’s about you try to get to fly under the radar. That’s fine with me, too. It’s not a problem. You just try to go out there and go about your business every day and try to improve and compete and you let everything else kind of take care of itself.”
Albers has proven early on that he can be effective without having overpowering stuff. His fastball doesn’t even touch 90 mph on the radar gun, but he keeps hitters off balance with a curveball in the mid-60s. Albers has had success getting ahead in the count and working quickly on the mound.
“Any time you get a lefty that gets people out, you use your imagination, ‘How’s he going to do at the next level and the next level?'” said Twins general manager Terry Ryan. “If you look at his Triple-A numbers and you look at his Double-A numbers, he’s certainly given up a lot more hits than innings pitched. He hasn’t done that up here yet, and we’ll keep putting him out there.”
A handful of Albers’ friends were at Monday’s game — his Target Field debut — and he’ll have more family and friends making the trip on Saturday. His parents will fly from Saskatchewan but his sisters will be driving down to Minnesota — about a 15-hour trip.
When he takes the mound Saturday, Albers won’t have the scoreless innings streak on his mind. He also won’t be worried about whether it will be his last start or the next of many with the Twins.
“You go out and you worry about things that you can handle,” Albers said. “You worry about your approach every day. You worry about working hard, getting your work done and those things will take care of themselves one way or another. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.
“Hopefully I can make it a tough decision for them on whether or not they want to keep me up there and maybe get a chance that way.”