Albers, the driving man

* LHP Andrew Albers (North Battleford, Sask.) resembles a young Justin Morneau, but as the scouts say "he can pitch and is fearless." .... 2014 Top Canadians eligible for draft 2013 Canadians in the Minors  2013 Canadians in College  Letters of Intent


By Bob Elliott

MINNEAPOLIS _ Lefty Andrew Albers started Sunday for the Minnesota Twins against the Blue Jays, pitching seven scoreless.

The North Battleford, Sask. did a lot of driving in order to get be signed by the Twins in 2011 and eventually becoming the first major leaguer from the prairie province in 22 years.

Outfielder Terry Puhl (Melville, Sask.) and Albers had lunch Wednesday in Houston to talk about their road to the majors and their home province.

The top trips Albers made in his 2004 maroon Buick Le Sabre.

1. New Britain, Conn. to North Battleford, 37 hours.

Finally getting his second chance after Tommy John surgery, Albers pitched his final 13 outings at double-A New Britain Rock Cats to close out the 2011 season. He was 4-1 with a 2.91 ERA, walking seven and striking out 34 in 43 1/3 innings. He had started the season at class-A Fort Myers going 4-1 with a 1.55 ERA and four saves. He pitched in 22 games, making two starts, walking seven and fanning 46 in 52 1/3 innings.


2. Phoenix to Ft Myers, 32 hours.

After working out for the Anaheim Angels, Milwaukee Brewers and the Colorado Rockies in the spring of 2011 and getting nary a nibble, he called Twins scouts Tim O’Neill and Kevin Winn. They had seen Albers work out at the University of Kentucky before he flew to Arizona. Albers told O’Neill he’d drive to the Twins spring training complex in Fort Myers take a medical exam, throw a bullpen and possibly sign. Then, the Twins would cover his expenses of the trip. They signed him.


3. Peoria, Az. to North Battleford, 29 hours.

After rehabbing from his surgery, Albers was back in camp with the San Diego Padres in 2010. At the end of camp he was released and made the long drive home. Should he quit baseball? Should he join the work force and the real world? He had plenty of time to think about it. The lefty decided to sign with the Quebec Capitales of the independent Can-Am Association. There Albers re-established himself and his health going 3-0 with a 1.40 ERA and 17 saves. Appearing in 40 games he walked 16 and struck out 59 in 57 2/3 innings.

4. Phoenix to North Battleford, 29 hours. 

Year one of pro ball was not exactly what Albers expected. He had elbow problems and only pitched seven innings for the Rookie-Class Arizona League Padres. A 10th round pick of San Diego he headed home wondering about his future.

And the next drive Albers will make now will be half an hour. On a bus from Target Field to the Minneapolis St.Paul International Airport a week from Sunday for a charter flight to Chicago, the Twins next stop.