Canadian left-hander Andrew Albers has signed a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays after a year spent pitching in South Korea.
Albers, a native of North Battleford, Sask., grew up watching the likes of Roberto Alomar, Devon White and Pat Hentgen and has been a Blue Jays fan basically his entire life.
“As a Canadian it’s always something you look to — to be a part of that organization,” Albers told Sportsnet Friday. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
Albers posted an impressive 4.05 ERA with Minnesota in 2013 before joining the Hanwha Eagles. He provides the Blue Jays with additional pitching depth on a deal that includes an invitation to big league spring training. Having already pitched at the big league level, Albers will arrive at spring training with his sights set on a 25-man roster spot.
"It gives you some confidence that you can perform at that level," he said. "Hopefully I can contribute, however they need me."
The 29-year-old became a free agent at the end of November when the Eagles declined the 2015 option on his one-year deal. He struggled in Korea, posting a 5.84 ERA in 146.1 innings, though he did make 27 starts and lead his team with 102 strikeouts.
"It was a good life experience," Albers said. "I had some bumps along the road. One of those years that, unfortunately, just didn't go my way. You want to make a good impression, but unfortunately the stuff just wasn't there early on."
Albers believes he can learn from his experience in South Korea because he has bounced back from struggles before.
The San Diego Padres initially selected Albers in the 10th round of the 2008 draft, but released him two years later. After a stint with the independent Quebec Capitales of the Canadian-American Association, Albers signed with the Twins, climbed through their minor league system and enjoyed a breakout season in 2013.
Albers made 10 starts for the Twins in 2013, and the club transferred his rights to the Eagles the following off-season. Minnesota reportedly obtained $500,000 in the deal, while Albers’ contract approached $1 million in value.
The Blue Jays expect Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris and Marco Estrada to compete for their final rotation spot, but their bullpen is wide open at this point and the team places a high value on having capable arms available at triple-A Buffalo. Albers says he's open to starting or pitching in relief. And if he doesn't make the team out of spring training, he's prepared to pitch for the Bisons until a need arises.
Jeff Francis, also a Canadian left-hander, obtained an invitation to Blue Jays spring training. Canadians Russell Martin, Michael Saunders and Dalton Pompey all project as starters on the Blue Jays in 2015.