Albers turning into solid cog in Sox's bullpen

Albers turning into solid cog in Sox's bullpen

Albers turning into solid cog in Sox's bullpen
BOSTON -- This year is Matt Albers' first with the Red Sox after spending three years with the Orioles, and it happens to be shaping up as the best year of his career.

The 28-year-old posted a 4.60 ERA in his time with Baltimore, a club that non-tendered him this offseason. Thanks to an arm that seems to have simply gained velocity, as well as more reliance on his slider than his curve, Albers' ERA has dipped to 2.55. The rest of his numbers have improved, too.

But in his former teammates' eyes, Albers might have stepped over the line in a tense 10-3 Boston win on Friday.

Albers hurled two perfect innings and struck out four, including the last batter he faced. As he walked off the mound in the seventh after blowing an 0-2 fastball by shortstop J.J. Hardy, he did a fist pump and appeared on replay to turn and say something in the direction of the Orioles' dugout.

"[I] kind of maybe took a look over there," Albers said. "I mean, it's not something I'm very proud of, it's not something I should've done. Let my pitching speak for itself. I just kind of got caught up in the moment over there. I didn't say anything, but it's kind of one of those things that happened, got a little caught up. It's one of those things."

While frustrations didn't boil over until an inning later Friday, when there was a bench-clearing fracas in the eighth, the O's had a different point of view.

Baltimore took exception to several things coming out of the home dugout, but the O's felt slighted in particular by Albers, whom they believed fired some choice words from the mound to his former club.

Albers allegedly used several expletives directed the Orioles' way, an event that didn't sit kindly with the team, closer Kevin Gregg included. The fracas kicked off when Gregg came on in the eighth and threw inside to David Ortiz.

"Not really," Albers said when asked if he still felt anything toward his former team. "I think I kind of got caught up in the moment a little bit maybe."

As for Albers' effectiveness this year, the radar gun readings are striking. According to, his fastball has averaged 93.8 mph, one full mile per hour faster than he did last year, and 0.8 better than his previous career-high (2007, '09). His slider is up nearly two full ticks, at 86.8 mph, and he's throwing it 25.5 percent of the time, by far a career high.

"He truly hasn't been that 90-mph sink," Sox pitching coach Curt Young said. "He's been 92, 93, 94 consistently with his fastball. ... I think it's really put him over the hump."

Young said there wasn't anything specific to point to for the boost, and Albers said he hadn't noticed it.

"I don't think so. I don't know, nice healthy arm," Young said. "We're trying not to overuse him. When he's throwing the baseball good, you'd like to use him as much as possible. There's been periods where we've given him some good rest, kind of rejuvenate his arm a little bit."

"I don't pay attention to it too much, I don't really turn around [and] look [at the radar gun readings]," Albers said. "Every once in a while I'll check and see where the slider's at. I felt more comfortable with the slider. The slider's something I added in last year. [I] started throwing it and just felt more comfortable this year. ... We've kept everything pretty much the same. Just rest and stuck with my shoulder problem. I don't know really what it is."

Evan Drellich is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @EvanDrellich. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.