Monday, April 14, 2008

Albers Set to Make First Orioles Start

ST. PETERSBURG -- Matt Albers may not have won a rotation spot in Spring Training, but he was never far removed from the discussion. Baltimore elected to break camp with Albers in a relief role, and he pitched well enough to set himself up as the first contingency plan. A rainout and a doubleheader later, Albers is scheduled to take the hill on Monday against Toronto.

Baltimore manager Dave Trembley has said that he wants his Triple-A pitching prospects to get in a groove and force a promotion, a process that generally takes far longer than a week or two. The Orioles only have a one-time vacancy, which allowed them to tab Albers for a start without disrupting his routine or the rhythm of their rotation.

"He really didn't show me any emotion," Trembley said. "I think he was excited about it, but he's done it before. It's not something that's new to him. ... I hope he doesn't come out and try to impress anybody. I like to use the words, 'It's not a tryout.' Just get us outs and keep the game close, and when you're done, we'll put somebody else in there."

Albers, who was acquired in the offseason trade for Miguel Tejada, has undergone a subtle transformation since joining the Orioles. Trembley said the right-hander relied heavily on his curveball last year, and has been encouraged to use his sinker more. Albers has been used as a long reliever in his first three appearances, but has yet to throw more than 44 pitches in a single appearance.

Baltimore went 2-4 on its road trip and lost both series by narrow margins, getting outscored 27-23 in the process. The Orioles will now return home, where they began their season on a 5-1 tear. Trembley has said that he likes the chemistry in his clubhouse, a feel-good atmosphere that may be tested if the team continues to struggle.

"The guys seem to like a challenge. There's a very good camaraderie," he said of the early-season returns. "I don't think the guys feel intimidated or overmatched by any situation. Early in the year, that's what you want. You just want to build on it, and hopefully that carries over. We've played a lot of close games and had to come from behind."

The Orioles lost 10 of their 18 games against the Jays last season and have lost the season series in six of the past seven years. The two teams will play twice in this series and then won't meet again until the beginning of June.

Pitching matchup
BAL: RHP Matt Albers (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
Albers made 18 starts for Houston last year, racking up a 3-11 record and a 5.71 ERA.

TOR: RHP Dustin McGowan (0-0, 3.27 ERA)
McGowan went 8-3 with a 3.27 ERA at home and 4-7 with a 4.91 mark on the road last year.

Bird bites
The Orioles batted .228 during their six-game road trip, leaving 43 runners on base. ... Baltimore's starting pitchers completed five innings in every game of the road trip except the series finale. The starters have completed six innings in four of the six home games. ... Adam Jones struck out four times on Sunday.


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