It may not be Major League Opening Day starter, but it’s as close as you can get.
North Battleford’s own Andrew Albers was announced as the Buffalo Bison’s starter for their first game of the season Thursday against Albers' old team, the Rochester Red Wings.
The Bison’s are the AAA affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, who signed Albers Dec. 19.
This is first time in his professional career that Albers will start on Opening Day, and he says it’s something he’s very proud of.
“It’s always a great honour to go out there on Opening Day,” he said from Buffalo. “Hopefully I can go out there and get off to a good start. Definitely looking forward to it.”
Humble as always, Albers still tried to downplay the achievement.
“I don’t know if you can read too much into it, it’s one of those things where (Opening Day) just fell into my day in the rotation,” he laughed.
He says he hasn’t known for too long that he would get the start.
“They told me last week that I would probably be starting, but even then you’re not set in stone,” he explained. “Things can happen at the end of spring and you’re never really sure. I found out for sure a few days ago so I’ve just been trying to get ready and make sure I get off to a good start.”
Albers made three appearances for the Blue Jays during spring training pitching 2.2 innings giving up three hits and a walk with a pair of strikeouts before being re-assigned to the minor league camp.
Despite a short stay, Albers says returning to a Major League spring training camp was a great experience.
“It was fun to meet those guys and get to meet the coaching staff,” he said. “Just to showcase what you have and sort of get yourself on the radar, it was a great opportunity and I really enjoyed it. If they need somebody up at that level hopefully they feel confident enough to give me a shot.”
Albers had success at the AAA level in 2013 before being called up to the Minnesota Twins, being named an All-Star after going 11-5 with a 2.86 ERA in 132.1 innings.
Looking back on past success helps put him in a good mental state for this season.
“You know that you’ve performed well at this level in the past and that’s something that you look back to and hope to replicate,” he said. “Having that season where I had some success that tells me that I can say ‘Hey I know I can pitch at this level, I’ve done it in the past’ so hopefully I can repeat that performance and have a good year.”
While he’s hoping to have a good year, he tries to stay away from setting statistical goals for himself.
“The statistics kind of take care of themselves,” he said. “I worry about what I can control and that’s to be ready to pitch every fifth day.”
Albers knows the ebbs and flows of a baseball season, and is prepared for any frustration that might come.
“Sometimes you can pitch really well and the line at the end of the day doesn’t look so good, and sometimes you can pitch pretty poorly and get away with it,” he said. “When people ask how you expect to do statistically I’m always worried to say anything that way. I prefer to focus on getting ready each and every day to perform to the best of my ability.”
The Bisons haven’t qualified for the post season since 2005 when they were the affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, though they have shown signs of improvement, increasing their win total in each of the past four seasons.
With Albers’ experience, the Bisons look for a better result when they play game one of their 144-game schedule Thursday afternoon.