Terry Francona Remains Hopeful That Matt Albers Can Return to Form

Terry Francona Remains Hopeful That Matt Albers Can Return to Form A few weeks ago, when Matt Albers began to struggle, Red Sox manager Terry Francona insisted upon his desire to stick with his once-dominant right-hander.

While Albers continues to get hit hard, Francona remains hopeful that one of the stalwarts of the bullpen for the season's first four months can rediscover his form.

"Sometimes, for whatever reason, you go through ruts or things don't go well," Francona said Saturday. "If you look up at the end of the year and his ERA's a little higher because he had that one stretch, that doesn't necessarily mean he can't be that guy again that he's been for most of the year. Just his ERA might suffer a little bit."

After giving up a pair of home runs in a three-run inning Friday night against Texas, that ERA was up to 4.69. That is not the worst number you will ever see, but considering where it was just over a month ago, it's rather alarming.

Albers' ERA since the beginning of August is now at 13.50. He has given up four home runs in 12 outings after surrendering only one in his first 35 appearances. Opponents have cranked out 21 hits in his last 12 2/3 innings.

That's more than your average "rut."

Francona stressed that Albers remains healthy, as evidenced by velocity that is on par or even higher than it was in the past. Obviously, other corrections need to be made.

"He's had a tough time," Francona said. "Velocity's good, sometimes the velocity's real good. There's been times he's been behind in the count, paid the price, and there's been times he's made mistakes over the middle of the plate. When he's good, he's working ahead and he's allowing that two-seamer to come through the zone with some life. Right now it's elevating and it's getting hit."

So, would the manager give Albers some time off to get things right?

"No, actually I think he wants to pitch more," Francona said. "He was fighting me the other night. He wanted to go back out for a second inning. Physically, he's fine."

Albers has seen a change in his role, even though Francona said that much of that is coincidental. In six of the right-hander's last eight appearances, the Red Sox were losing when he entered, the last four times by an average of 4.8 runs. One of the games in which they were winning upon Albers' entrance, it was a 12-run lead.

Boston was ahead or tied in seven of his 10 appearances in both June and July.

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