North Battleford native Andrew Albers posted stellar numbers in the minor leagues with the AAA Gwinnett Braves this past July and August.
In eight starts from July 4 to Aug. 10, he went 6-0 with a sparkling 0.98 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 55.1 innings.
Yet a call-up to the majors never came.
Instead, on Aug. 12, Albers was traded to the Tacoma Rainers, the AAA-affiliate of the Seattle Mariners.
When the trade happened, Albers was not aware he'd be making his first major league start in four years at Safeco Field just three days later.
"I was planning on making my start in Tacoma and found out the day before I would be making the start in Seattle," Albers, who just turned 32 last week, said in a phone interview. "It was just 'Alright, here we go.' I was excited. We were in the playoff hunt at that point...The first thought was, 'I've got to get ready and got to perform as best I can to try to stay up here as long as possible and hopefully be a part of this.' They had a really good thing going there. A good group of guys, good team and like I said, right in the hunt."
That start was one of six he would make as a member of the Mariners from Aug. 15 until the end of September.
The left-handed pitcher went 5-1 with a solid 3.51 ERA, and even picked up his first career save on Sept. 25, after being moved to the bullpen because of the return of Felix Hernandez and James Paxton from injury.
"I probably won't come by many of those," Albers said about the save, laughing. "I'm not going to be closing many games but we had a big enough lead and I happened to throw the last three innings so getting that save was certainly nice. It was a nice little feather in the cap. But again, the big thing at that point in time was just getting team wins and just trying to stay in that race as long as we could."
Overall, Albers pitched 41 innings during six starts plus relief appearances. He logged 37 strikeouts and just 10 walks, while giving up two home runs.
He said the personal success came because a lot of things went right.
"It's part of that deal where the offence scored a lot for me when I was on the mound and the defence played well behind me and I was able to do my part as well," Albers said. "The win-loss record especially, that's a thing that is not always a telling stat. Obviously, a team has got to score runs for you when you go out there and pitch. If they get shutout, you're not going to win many games. And we were able to do that. In most of my starts, it went pretty well and the offence clicked."
The Mariners ultimately missed the post-season but playing meaningful baseball in September meant a lot for Albers.
It was also a first.
"It was the first time for me that I got to September and I was with a team that was still in the playoff hunt," Albers said. "So that part of it was a lot of fun and I got to contribute to that. Those games were really meaningful and that's kind of what you play all season for."
Was it the most fun he's ever had playing the game?
"It's up there," he said. "I've gotten a chance to be a part of couple of national teams where we've gone into the Pan Am Games and won them and [going to] the World Baseball Classic...so those tournaments, especially having the success that we had a couple times, they were a lot of fun. So I'd put those up there with it. But certainly, September this year ranks right up there with anything that I've done in my career for sure."
Albers' off-season has now just begun, which means it's time for him to decompress.
The contract that he signed last year with the Braves was a one-year deal, but because he made a start in the majors, he was added to the Mariners 40-man roster.
Albers is currently still on that 40-man roster, but things can change before next season.
"We'll see if I stay there or not," Albers said. "If I don't end up staying there, I end up becoming another minor league free agent where I can sign with another club or back with the Mariners. If they keep me on the 40-man roster, then my contract is renewable. For hockey people it would be like a two-way contract where it would be a minor league deal with an opportunity to possibly move up to the big leagues.
"I feel like I put myself in a good situation with the season that I had. I should be able to to at least find a job somewhere next year, whether it's in the minors or hopefully a big league invite of some sort. We'll see what happens."
Ironically, as Albers pointed out himself, the three major league teams he has played for so far are all either close to the Canadian border or in Canada, as he's played for Minnesota, Toronto and Seattle.
On Twitter: @NathanKanter11
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