Seattle Mariners

Mariners to replace Paxton in rotation with his former teammate at Kentucky

Lefty Andrew Albers, who pitched last season for Minnesota, will start Tuesday for the Mariners against Baltimore.
Lefty Andrew Albers, who pitched last season for Minnesota, will start Tuesday for the Mariners against Baltimore. AP

There is undeniable symmetry in the Mariners’ decision to replace injured left-hander James Paxton as their starting pitcher Tuesday night with just-acquired lefty Andrew Albers.

A symmetry beyond the portside look.

It was Albers who years ago helped convince Paxton, a fellow Canadian, to attend the University of Kentucky.

"When I went for my visit," Paxton recalled, "he was the player who showed me around. He was definitely a part of selling Kentucky to me. A great guy. He’s one of those A-plus character guys. He really competes. Plays hard.

"He’s good at what he does. He’s going to be a great addition to our team."

The two got reacquainted Monday before the Mariners opened a three-game series against Baltimore Orioles at Safeco Field.

"It’s fun to see the progress that he’s made and to follow his career," Albers said. "He’s obviously been outstanding. He’s certainly a guy I can go to for advice about what to do up here. Now the roles are kind of reversed than they were in college.

"It’s kind of neat to come full circle like that."

The Mariners acquired Albers, 31, on Aug. 11 from Atlanta for a nominal fee.

Albers was 12-3 with a 2.61 ERA in 26 games, including 17 starts, for Triple-A Gwinnett in the Braves’ system. His big-league resume shows a 2-5 record and a a 4.41 ERA in 17 games for Minnesota and Toronto in parts of three seasons.

"A few day ago," Albers said, "I was over on the East Coast (in Gwinnett, Ga.). Now, I find myself here in the thick of a pennant race and getting the opportunity to start (Tuesday). I’m really excited about it and really looking forward to it."

The Mariners are hoping Albers provides the sort of boost to their rotation that veteran lefty Wade LeBlanc delivered last year in going 3-0 with a 4.50 ERA in 11 games.

"A similar type of acquisition," manager Scott Servais said. "Come in, do his thing, keep us in games and give us a chance."

The Mariners must corresponding moves Tuesday to add Albers to their 25- and 40-man rosters prior to Tuesday’s game against the Orioles.

Albers was a 10th-round pick by San Diego in 2008 who became a free agent after missing the 2009 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He began his comeback in 2010 by pitching as a reliever in an independent league.

The Twins signed Albers in 2011, and he reached the majors in 2013. He became a free agent after that season and pitched the next year in Japan before returning to the big leagues with Toronto in 2015.

After becoming a free agent after that season, he returned to the Twins’ organization in 2016. He signed last December with the Braves as a minor-league free agent.

Albers’ numbers this year at Gwinnett are his best since 2013 at Triple-A Rochester in the Twins’ system.

"I’ve been catching some breaks," he said, "and the command has been really good. That’s what I work off of. The last couple of months here, it’s been good, and things have gone my way. It’s been a good stretch."

Good enough for another big-league shot.

"It means a lot," he said. "It’s hard to put into words right now. You never know when these opportunities are going to come up or how many of them you’re going to get. I’ve been very fortunate to have a few.

"I just want to try to take advantage of it the best I can."

PAXTON’S STATUS

Paxton is hoping for good news Tuesday when he undergoes another examination on his strained left pectoral muscle, which surfaced in an Aug. 10 start against the Angels.

"It’s feeling pretty good," he said, "but I haven’t done too much to test it strength-wise. But range-of-motion-wise, it feels really good. I haven’t had any soreness or anything. We’ll find out a lot more (on Tuesday)."

The original timetable projected Paxton would miss at least three weeks.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners

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