8/3/2013 8:09 P.M. ET
After long trip, lefty Albers prepares for Majors debut
By Patrick Donnelly / Special to MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Andrew Albers has already been through his first Major League travel headache, but the Twins' newest player was all smiles on Saturday afternoon as he sat in the team's dugout at Target Field for the first time.
Albers found out late Friday night that he'd been called up to the big leagues, but first he had to endure a bus ride with his teammates from Lehigh Valley, Penn., back to Rochester, N.Y. Upon arriving at 4 a.m. ET, he had two hours to pack a bag and get to the airport, only to find out that his flight to Minneapolis had been cancelled due to storms in Chicago.
He eventually caught a different flight, which was subsequently diverted from Chicago to Detroit, where he transferred planes and finally landed in the Twin Cities in time to get him to Target Field less than three hours before the Twins were scheduled to face the Astros.
It was a journey Albers won't soon forget, but as long as it ended with him putting on a Major League uniform for the first time, the logistics were of little consequence.
"It's been kind of a whirlwind for the last day and a half here -- I'm just trying to take it all in," Albers said with an ear-to-ear grin. "I'm really thrilled to be here."
The 27-year-old lefty is scheduled to make his Major League debut on Tuesday in Kansas City, where he will replace Scott Diamond in the starting rotation. Similarly to when they called up Kyle Gibson in June, the Twins wanted to give Albers a few days to get his feet on the ground and settle in before facing the task of retiring big league hitters, a gesture he appreciated.
"I wouldn't want to be starting today after a 4 a.m. bus trip and 6 a.m. flight -- that would have been pretty tough," Albers said. "I'm glad I've got a couple of days to take in the atmosphere, get [acclimated] to the club and those good things."
Still, it won't be the first time this year that he's faced down the world's best hitters in a Major League stadium. Albers pitched for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic and threw three innings against Mexico at Chase Field in Phoenix. That night, Albers stared down the likes of Adrian Gonzalez, Luis Cruz, Jorge Cantu and Ramiro Pena, gaining valuable experience he hopes will transfer to his time with the Twins.
"You realize that they're human, too, and they can get out as well," Albers said. "That's the big thing -- you've got to come up and do what got you here, pound the zone and throw strikes and be aggressive."
Albers went 11-5 with a 2.86 ERA in 22 starts at Triple-A Rochester this year, and though he's not blessed with a blazing fastball, he managed 116 strikeouts in 132 1/3 innings. His numbers were good enough to catch the eye of Twins general manager Terry Ryan.
"He put himself on our radar. You can't overlook what he's accomplished down there every time he pitches," Ryan said. "He has a knack of being able to produce quality innings. He's got just enough funk, he's got location, he's got deception, he's got the stomach and the heart."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he's received good reports on Albers' makeup both on and off the field.
"From just listening to [Rochester manager] Gene Glynn talk and guys that know him from around here, he's a competitor, a great guy for the club, a great clubhouse presence," Gardenhire said. "He doesn't have a lot of velocity, but he really knows how to pitch -- he can cut the ball in hard, even without velocity, and locate the baseball."
In terms of style, Albers mentioned former big league lefties Tom Glavine, Jamie Moyer and Jimmy Key as pitchers who got batters out with location and smarts rather than overpowering stuff, a path he hopes to follow.
"Pick and choose from a few of those guys," Albers said, "and not necessarily try to emulate them, but I try to take things from each of them and try to develop my own style."
Starters Correia, Pelfrey conspired to pinch-hit Friday
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire greeted former big league pitcher Steve Sparks with a wry grin in his office on Saturday afternoon, some 15 hours after one of the strangest games of Gardenhire's managing career.
"Did you think you were going to have to pitch last night? Come out of that booth and throw some knuckleballs?" Gardenhire asked the Astros radio broadcaster.
Both men had a good chuckle about the idea of Sparks un-retiring during the Twins' 13-inning victory over the Astros on Friday night. Then Gardenhire added a line that probably contained more truth than humor.
"My whole pitching staff didn't care about pitching -- all they wanted to do was hit."
The Twins lost their designated hitter position when Doug Bernier pinch-ran for Chris Colabello in the ninth inning and stayed in the game at shortstop. That led to some hilarity in the Twins' dugout as pitchers Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey and Kyle Gibson conspired to get into the game as pinch-hitters when the DH spot came around again in the order.
Brian Dozier, who drove in the winning run with a single in the 13th, wasn't surprised at their enthusiasm to join the fray.
"Pitchers always think they can hit," Dozier said with a smirk. "That's fun stuff."
The humor, Gardenhire said, came as the pitchers -- who normally have the night off when they're not starting -- scrambled to prove their readiness to help the team.
"It became entertaining, because Pelfrey had to put his contacts in, and they all had to go put their spikes on," Gardenhire said of the antics in the dugout. "I look up at one point -- and don't tell Mr. Ryan this, but Gibby is throwing soft-toss to Pelfrey in the cage and hiding behind it. And that's our starting pitcher [Saturday]. So there was a lot of [stuff] happening."
It turned out their preparation paid off in the pivotal 13th inning. With one out and Clete Thomas at the plate, Gardenhire sent Pelfrey into the on-deck circle. Had Thomas been retired, Pelfrey would have been the pick to pinch-hit, but Thomas drew a walk, so Correia was sent up to drop down a sacrifice bunt.
The strategy worked, as Correia's perfect bunt advanced Thomas to second, and Dozier followed with the game-winning hit. After the game, Correia tried to deflect attention, but eventually admitted that he enjoyed playing an unexpected but key role in the victory.
"It's fun -- we don't get that opportunity anymore at the plate, being in the American League, but we're normally sitting there just as spectators four days a week, so it's fun to get in a game, especially if you can help your team get a win."
Correia spent 10 years in the National League and dropped down 41 sacrifice bunts before joining the Twins, but he's yet to hit his first career home run. Pelfrey hasn't homered either, despite playing seven years in the NL with the Mets, but at 6-foot-7, he's apparently a more intimidating presence in the on-deck circle.
"I took my biggest pitcher and put him out on deck just to kind of put fear into them," Gardenhire said. "He was going to hit and Correia was the bunter. If we didn't get anybody on, Pelf was going to go up and try to go deep, basically is what he told me."
After one last chuckle, Gardenhire summarized the absurdity of the situation.
"We were just happy we had a helmet his size."
Florimon scratched after tweaking wrist in BP
MINNEAPOLIS -- Shortstop Pedro Florimon was scratched from the starting lineup on Saturday night and is considered day to day with a left wrist injury.
Twins meneral manager Terry Ryan said that Florimon tweaked the wrist during batting practice and was pulled from the starting lineup as a precautionary measure. The injury mostly affects him when he's hitting right-handed, which he would have been doing against the Astros' starter on Saturday, lefty Erik Bedard.
However, Ryan said Florimon would be available to pinch-run, play defense or even hit left-handed. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Doug Bernier.
Patrick Donnelly is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.