By STEVE KRAH
Luke Albright is preparing for his third professional baseball season.
The right-handed pitcher from Fishers, Ind., is honing his offerings while participating in spring training at the Arizona Diamondbacks complex — Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
Albright spent most of his time following the 2022 campaign in Fishers and worked out five days a week at PRP Baseball at Mojo Up Sports Complex in Noblesville.
“It was pretty much full-go most of the off-season,” says Albright. Fridays featured “live ABs” and “high-intent bullpens.”
He reported to instructional league in Arizona Jan. 15, went home for a week and came back for early spring camp.
Albright, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 230 pounds, throws a four-seam baseball, curveball, slider and change-up from a high three-quarter arm slot.
Early this spring, his fastball has been clocked around 93 to 95 mph. It touched 95 mph during the 2022 season.
“I’ve made some adjustments in the off-season and it’s gotten a little better,” says Albright.
His curve is of the 11-to-5 or 12-to-6 variety.
The cutter/slider is “short, late and tight, just barely misses bats and gets a lot of strikeouts.”
There is true arm-side fade to the change-up.
Albright has been working on adding a “gyro” slider to the mix.
“We’re tinkering with it and seeing where it’s going to play,” says Albright.
Albright was selected in the sixth round of the 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Diamondbacks after three seasons at Kent (Ohio) State University, where Jeff Duncan is head coach.
With veteran pitching coach Mike Birkbeck guiding him, Albright made 33 mound appearances (21 as a starter) and went 12-7 with two saves and a 2.98 earned run average. In 157 innings, he struck out 178 and walked 71.
“As a freshman I had good stuff,” says Albright. “I just didn’t use it effectively. (Birkbeck) got me to be myself and not try to do too much.
“Over time, we developed a curveball and change-up and added a slider.”
In his 25th season, Birkbeck has worked with 53 student-athletes who have been drafted or signed into professional baseball, including 2011 first-rounder Andrew Chafin and 2016 first-rounder and National Player and Pitcher of the Year Eric Lauer.
In 2021, Albright was named second-team all-Mid-American Conference and was MAC Pitcher of the Week after holding No. 2 Mississippi State to one hit over six innings. He set a career-best 13 strikeouts against Ohio. He whiffed 10 or more three times during the 2020 season.
Albright pitched sparingly during the summer of 2018 before going to Kent State. He did go to South Bend for the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series.
He was with the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Keene (N.H.) Swamp Bats in the summer of 2019 and split the summer of 2020 between the College Summer League at Grand Park and the Northwoods League’s St. Cloud (Minn.) Rox.
Since Albright logged 82 innings at Kent State in 2021, he hurled just 23 1/3 innings over six starts at Low Class-A Visalia (Calif.) that summer, going 2-0 with a 3.47 ERA, 22 strikeouts and 11 walks.
Albright spent the 2022 season at High Class-A Hillsboro (Ore.). The righty made 26 starts and went 6-10 with a 5.49 ERA. In 123 innings, he fanned 130 and walked 56.
Albright grew up in Fishers and played travel ball for the Indiana Mustangs and Indiana Travelers.
His pitching instructor before and during high school was Mike Farrell.
“He helped bridge that gap from high school to how it would be in college,” says Albright of Farrell. “He told me what you need to do and what you need to learn.
“(Birkbeck and Farrell) are two of the most impactful people I’ve met in my baseball career,” says Albright. “They are a tremendous help.”
Going into his sophomore year is where Albright saw himself more as a pitcher and less as a hitter.
“My hitting skills diminished, but pitching really took off for me,” says Albright. “I saw it could lead to college. At the time that’s all I wanted.”
In three varsity seasons at Fishers High School, Albright won 16 games and posted a 2.69 ERA over 143 innings.
He fanned 91 as a senior and helped the Matt Cherry-coached Tigers to dogpile with a 2018 IHSAA Class 4A state championship.
Albright was the winning pitcher and Grant Richardson picked up the save in the title game. Richardson went on to Indiana University and is now an infielder in the New York Yankees organization.
“We weren’t very good my sophomore year (at Fishers),” says Albright. “We had a great team junior year and fell a little short in the (Lafayette Jeff) Regional.
“Senior year I got to enjoy what it was like to win the state championship.”
Luke, who turned 23 in December, is the oldest of Mark and Amy Albright’s two sons. Brock Albright is now a junior in the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University in Bloomington.
By going back to Kent State after his first pro season and taking online classes, Luke Albright earned his Business degree this past winter and is a few classes shy of a Marketing degree.