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Anderson getting boost from Giants' new tech

@mi_guardado
March 7, 2020

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A surge in new technology has changed the way teams approach player development in recent years. Edgertronic high-speed cameras and Rapsodo devices are now ubiquitous around Major League facilities, giving players the tools to experiment with adjustments while receiving feedback in real time. Such has been the

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A surge in new technology has changed the way teams approach player development in recent years. Edgertronic high-speed cameras and Rapsodo devices are now ubiquitous around Major League facilities, giving players the tools to experiment with adjustments while receiving feedback in real time.

Such has been the case for Shaun Anderson this spring. Earlier this week, the 25-year-old right-hander threw a bullpen session on the backfields at Scottsdale Stadium and used the high-tech gear to evaluate the progress of a new fastball grip he’s working on.

The Edgertronic cameras have the ability to capture slow-motion video, providing a clear view of a pitcher’s grip, while Rapsodo supplies a radar system that tracks metrics such as velocity, spin rate and spin axis.

“You throw a pitch and it gives you feedback in less than 10 seconds,” Anderson said Saturday. “We didn’t have that last year. We had it, but not instantly like that. Just seeing the instant feedback, ‘OK, your finger was a little misplaced here, try it again.’ Repeating the reps, you can actually overlay them right on top of each other to make sure it’s on a consistent path. That’s pretty much as easy as it gets to see how you just threw the ball. It happens so fast. I think it’s really helpful.”

Anderson said he first tweaked the grip on his four-seam fastball last year after developing a blister on his right middle finger that led to a stint on the injured list in August. He grew comfortable with the change and spent the offseason throwing that way, but when he reported to Spring Training, the club’s new pitching coaches convinced him to revert to his old grip.

“I’ve always had a traditional four-seam grip, and last year when I went down with the blister, I kind of flipped the four-seam on the different horseshoe,” Anderson said. “That felt comfortable for me, and I started back spinning the ball a little more. I guess when we broke it down here in Spring Training, the spin of my fastball in previous years was actually better.”

Pitching coach Andrew Bailey said the goal was to get more consistent vertical break on Anderson’s fastball to help him stay above barrels. According to Baseball Savant, Anderson averaged 17.9 inches of drop on his four-seam last season, but Bailey said the variance on the pitch was “pretty drastic,” which the Giants are working to rectify this spring.

“League-wide, we know that in terms of vertical-break numbers on fastballs, anything above 15 inches plays,” Bailey explained. “Anything under 15 inches gets slugged on. Just having him understand the way the ball comes off his hand is very important. How do we cut off those 12-13 inch reps and have more consistency above 15? He has the capability of doing it. Helping him understand the why behind things is important for us.”

The adjustment remains a work in progress for Anderson, who has allowed nine runs over 2 2/3 innings in his first two Cactus League appearances this year. Still, he said he’s encouraged by the progress he made in his most recent bullpen session and is eager to carry those tweaks into his next scheduled outing against the Mariners on Sunday.

“We used the slow-motion cameras, and it showed how the spin is a lot harder to pick up as a hitter compared to the four-seam I was throwing before,” Anderson said. “I’m excited to throw tomorrow and see how it plays. It’s going to take some getting used to, but it feels comfortable. I understand what they’re trying to show me and how it’s ultimately going to help me get more swing-and-misses. That’s the key.”

Anderson is being stretched out as a starter this spring and will be in the mix for the fifth spot in the rotation now that Tyler Beede is expected to miss significant time with a right elbow sprain, but he’s also a former University of Florida closer who could develop into an intriguing relief option for the Giants. Anderson spent time in both roles last season and understands that the club is prioritizing versatility this spring, though he made it clear that he’d prefer to start.

“Obviously, I want to be in the rotation,” Anderson said. “But I also want to win, and if that means being in the bullpen, then that’s what it takes. I’ll be the best bullpen arm I can be.”

Maria Guardado covers the Giants for MLB.com. She previously covered the Angels from 2017-18. Follow her on Twitter.