Last season, the emergence of rookie Ian Anderson was a primary reason the Braves reached the National League Championship Series. Now, Anderson hopes to improve on his success and help Atlanta take the next step in 2021.
In his final tuneup of Spring Training, Anderson allowed four runs on five hits in 2 2/3 frames in a 4-0 loss in seven innings to the Red Sox at CoolToday Park. He struck out three and walked one. Anderson started the game in good form, allowing only one hit and the walk through two innings. However, in the top of the third Anderson allowed three home runs -- to Enrique Hernández, J.D. Martinez and Marwin Gonzalez -- which is two more than he allowed in all of 2020, including the postseason.
“I feel like I haven’t been able to kind of get out of that last inning, and it’s a couple times down here. I don’t know if it’s a focus thing or what,” said Anderson, who was only scheduled to pitch three innings. “I have confidence in my stuff, still, and I feel like I’m at a good spot so I can definitely take that into Opening Weekend.”
In his six regular-season appearances last year, Anderson had a 1.95 ERA with one home run allowed in 32 1/3 innings. But it was the postseason where Anderson puts teams on alert. In his four appearances, Anderson went 18 2/3 innings with 24 strikeouts, a 0.96 ERA and no homers allowed. He is slotted in as Atlanta’s No. 3 starter, and he is scheduled to make his 2021 regular-season debut on Sunday in Philadelphia.
During his postgame conference on Monday, Anderson said that he feels that a large part of his success is his ability to limit home runs and limit teams from having those big innings -- like he saw vs. the Sox.
“You know, I think facing a little adversity is never a bad thing, especially at this point in the year, so I’m positive going in and ready to go,” said Anderson.
Prior to the game, manager Brian Snitker said that because teams understand Anderson’s style, he will need to adjust against the competition.
“He’s not going to surprise anybody anymore. They’re going to have video [for the people who] faced him,” said Snitker. “Man, that’s part of this whole process -- adjusting with the league, and you know, handling expectation.”
Anderson, who maintains his rookie eligibility for the 2021 season, is heavily reliant on his fastball and changeup, with his change usually his dominant putaway pitch. Two of the three home runs he allowed on Monday came on changeups. In his five starts for the Braves in Spring Training, he recorded a 6.38 ERA in 18 1/3 innings. For Anderson to capture that same dominance from the '20 postseason, he will need to adjust as teams become more aware of his style of pitching.
Snitker maintains that he isn’t getting too hung up on this performance, because he knows what Anderson is capable of. The best test will be the Braves' competition going forward.
“I appreciate the effort. How consistent they’ve been. We can only be here so long and they’re ready,” said Snitker. “I mean, the guys are in good shape. All the pitchers are in good shape, and I think it’s just time to start playing.”