Surely, he was eager to show that the Red Sox had made the right decision in signing him, giving him a spot on the major league roster and trusting him to take on some important innings.
Then, there was pain. Albers began to feel something in his side and upper back, near the shoulder. While the competitor in him was reticent about taking a seat just moments after such a wonderful opportunity had begun, Albers knew that he had to exercise caution. He had been in this situation before, and made the wrong call.
Albers suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder in 2008 and did not pitch an inning after June 25. Although his recent ailment was of a different nature, the lesson was learned.
“I had been through this before. I had some shoulder issues, tried to pitch through it and didn’t say anything and pretty much went until I couldn’t throw anymore,” Albers said. “I ended up missing the second half of the season. I didn’t want something like that to happen. So I went ahead and was like, my [latissimus] has been bothering me a little bit.”
It wasn’t much. Albers knew he might be OK to pitch again in a few days. But rather than force the issue and wait on the unknown, the Red Sox made the decision to place him on the 15-day disabled list. He returned on time two weeks later and has been a force in the Boston bullpen ever since.
Outside of one very rocky outing against the Chicago Cubs in which he gave up six runs without getting an out, Albers has been strong and sports a respectable 3.68 ERA. Also, five of his 18 appearances have lasted two innings, an incredibly valuable resource for manager Terry Francona.
Albers knows that the decision was the right one, and because of it he is flourishing.
“Obviously, at the time, I kind of wanted to, the competitor in me wants to stay out there,” said the 28-year-old righty. “I didn’t want to go on the DL. I wanted to pitch through it. But looking back, it was probably the best thing.”
Using sound judgment when there is a physical issue is incredibly important, not only for hard-throwing relievers, but for any walk of life. An ignored ailment can turn into something serious. Trying to push through can only cause harm.
“Pain is the body’s way of saying ‘stop,’” explained Joe DeAngelis, MD, of the Sports Medicine and Shoulder Surgery Program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “Patients are well served by listening to their bodies and taking the time to understand what is going on, whether they are recreational or professional athletes. At the end of the day, addressing the symptoms early affords individuals an opportunity to get better before the problem gets worse.”
Albers admits that if it was September and the Red Sox were in the midst of a playoff push, he might have tried to give a few more innings. Since it was April, it was an easy decision to sit down for a bit. He’s happy the injury occurred when it did.
“That’s one thing they told me,” he said. “They said, ‘Look, it’s early, we don’t want you to go out there and hurt yourself. We have capable guys in Triple-A. We just want you to go rest it and be 100 percent.
“If something like that happened in late August, early September, yeah, it’d probably be a different story. It went quick. Luckily, as soon as that 15th day came up I was able to come back full strength.”
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