Blue Jays right fit for lefty Albers

Andrew Albers (4)

 * LHP Andrew Albers (North Battleford, Sask.) had some options after picking a year in Korea with the Hanwha Eagles in 2014. The former Minnesota Twins starter chose to sign with the Blue Jays. … 

2014 Canadians in the Minors … Canadians in College

2015 Canadian draft list …. Canadians in College
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Letters of Intent


By Bob Elliott

How’s it going?

“Another day at the beach,” we have heard from 100s of major leaguers over the years walking into a clubhouse at spring training.

Lefty Andrew Albers could have used the phrase Friday morn during his Jamaica vacation, after signing a minor-league deal with the Blue Jays which includes an invite to major-league camp at Dunedin, but he didn’t.

“This is a great opportunity, the Blue Jays have a solid rotation, but sometimes things happen suddenly,” Albers said.

Albers made 10 starts with the 2013 Minnesota Twins –not allowing a run his first two starts against the Kansas City Royals and the Cleveland Indians — pitched in Korea for the Hanwha Eagles in 2014.

Now the North Battleford, Sask. native is back in North America. Albers said a few other teams showed interest, but Toronto was “the best fit.”

Blue Jays assistant general manager Andrew Tinnish and Albers’ Toronto-based agent Blake Corosky worked on the contract for two weeks.

“I’ll compete for a job, try to make it tough on them to send me to (triple-A) Buffalo,” Albers said. “Obviously Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey have been durable. Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez are all good looking arms and you help they stay healthy.

“You rarely got through a season with five guys making all 162 starts. And from what I’ve read they’re looking for help in the bullpen.”

Albers has been a starter — except for three appearances going back to double-A New Britain in 2011 — would pitch out of the bullpen.

After winning his first start with the Twins to become a provincial hero and then a coast-to-coast story, Albers finished 2-5 with a 4.05 ERA walking seven and striking out 25 in 60 innings.

With the last-place Eagles, Albers was 6-13 with a 5.89 ERA in 28 starts.

“From a baseball standpoint it didn’t go the way I liked,” Albers said. “I didn’t get off to a good start, we made some changes and things got worse.”

While Tom Sellick starred in the movie Mr. Baseball about an American import in Japan, Albers admitted he had some “Mr. Baseball references.”

Korean teams play small ball, the pace of the game is slower, managers are much quicker with the hook — using pinch hitters in the fourth, pulling catchers in the middle of an inning.

“You wonder about certain moves, the style is different and it takes time to get used to,” Albers said. “Sometimes you look into the dugout to see what everyone else thought, but it’s part of their strategy and it has worked for a long time.

“It was a good life experience the Hanwha organization treated me with a lot of respect.”

Albers’ family and his girlfriend Laura Desjardins from the Toronto area — the pair met a few years ago at the annual Baseball Canada banquet — made the long trip from Saskatchewan and Ontario to Korea.

Travelling is no big deal to Albers. This is a man who drove alone with his thoughts in his 2004 maroon Buick Le Sabre from New Britain, Conn. to North Battleford (a distance of 37 hours), Phoenix to Ft Myers, Fla. (32 hours), Peoria, Az. to North Battleford (29 hours) and a return trip Phoenix to North Battleford (29 hours).

Each team in Korea was allowed imports. Hanwha had former Chicago Cubs outfileder Felix Pie, one-time Boston Red Sox No. 1 pick Caleb Clay and Albers to start the season.

Clay was released after 10 starts, replaced by former Washington Nationals right-hander Ryan Tatusko.

Albers will try to become the first member of Rider Pride to wear a Blue Jays uniform.

Claimed: The Jays scooped lefty Juan Oramas on waivers from the San Diego Padres, a move which would not have been amongst the top three the Padres made this week.

Oramas, 24, from Villahermosa, Mex., was 10-7 with a 4.75 in 27 games — 25 starts — at double-A San Antonio and triple-A El Paso, He walked 51 and struck out 116 in 136 1/3 innings. He has options.

Minors: The Jays finalized their managerial and coaching staff for 2015:

At Buffalo: manager Gary Allenson, coaches Randy St. Claire and Richie Hebner; at New Hampshire: manager: Bob Meacham, plus coaches Bob Stanley and Stubby Clapp; at Dunedin: manager Omar Malave,plus coaches Vince Horsman and John Tamargo; at Lansing: manager Ken Huckaby, plus coaches Jeff Ware and Kenny Graham; at Vancouver: managerJohn Schneiderwith Jim Czajkowski and Reggie Mungrue; at Bluefield: manager Dennis Holmberg, along with coach Antonio Caceres.

Still looking: The Blue Jays shot high at the winter meetings looking for relief help.

The Cincinnati Reds and the Jays discussed flame thrower Aroldis Chapman.

Chapman’s fastball was often clocked at 100 MPH as he saved 36 of 38 chances (95%) this season. He would certainly fill the Jays need for a closer. He was 0-3 with a 2.00 ERA, walking 24 and fanning 106 in 54 innings.

Yet don’t expect the Cuban defector to be at Rogers Centre in a Jays uniform. The Reds — who traded starters Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon, who combined for 48 starts last year — wanted a Blue Jays starter in return.

His name?

Marcus Stroman.

End of discussion.

Scott Harrigan
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