Albers working to re-establish command

White Sox reliever points to mechanics, not health, for rough patch following record scoreless streak

Albers working to re-establish command

CLEVELAND -- Matt Albers set the individual bar extremely high at the start of this 2016 season, running his scoreless-appearance streak beginning in '15 to 30 straight games through April 25. That personal best also stands as the longest in franchise history, covering 33 innings.

Things have not been nearly as smooth for the 33-year-old right-hander from that point moving forward. In fact, Albers has allowed 28 earned runs on 49 hits over 33 innings since the start of May. The struggles are not health-related, per Albers.

"The main thing for me is the walks and then long balls," said Albers, who ranks third on the team with 50 appearances. "So I think just trying to avoid that. It's more about me getting ahead.

"I run into trouble getting into bad counts, and I have to throw strikes. A mistake I leave over the plate gets hit for a home run. Just trying to eliminate that. Just trying to get ahead of guys, get some early contact and just try to work on that. Other than that, it's not too much different."

Albers notches the victory

Albers walked three and didn't allow a home run over 11 2/3 innings in April. Over the next 3 1/2 months, Albers has yielded nine home runs while walking 15.

Part of the mound issue is mechanics-based.

"Just staying back a little bit," Albers said. "I run into trouble when I'm kind of side to side a little bit instead of over the ball. Just kind of being a little quick, and the ball flattens out. Stay over the rubber a little bit and make sure the ball is sinking and not kind of running.

"My arm feels good. I've had a pretty good workload. From that perspective, it's good. Just getting ahead and trying to simplify it and just working down in the zone and working a lot of strikes early in the count is going to help me."

With a 1.21 ERA over 30 games last season, Albers arguably stood as the team's most consistent reliever. He returned to the White Sox as a free agent via a one-year, $2.25 million deal, with a $3 million club option for 2017. Albers has pushed the past aside, both good and bad, and is hoping to finish strong within the '16 season.

"It's frustrating to not be able to pitch the way I feel like I know I can pitch," Albers said. "When you go through that good stretch, balls you leave over the plate are hit right at people. You hit the tough stretch and it kind of evens out. There's a month and a half still left, and if I can finish off strong, it's a good sign."

"Being a reliever, when it doesn't go well, it's magnified a hundred times," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "I know he wants to be doing better, but there's a lot of factors that go into it. But having belief in him coming in tough situations, I still have that."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.