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Anderson looks to build on strong finish to '17

MLB.com @DKramer_

DENVER -- If the Rockies hope to return to the postseason after making their first appearance since 2009 last season, they will once again be leaning heavily on a youthful rotation.

Near the top of that unit will be left-hander Tyler Anderson, who in his sophomore season underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee that sidelined him for 11 weeks and has him eager to pitch a full, healthy 2018 -- particularly following a topsy-turvy '17 that ended on a high note. Anderson rebounded to go 3-1 with a 1.19 ERA, 18 strikeouts and just three walks in four September outings, pitching in critical moments as the Rockies maintained their grip on the second National League Wild Card spot. However, he recalls the 7.71 ERA he posted in six April outings.

DENVER -- If the Rockies hope to return to the postseason after making their first appearance since 2009 last season, they will once again be leaning heavily on a youthful rotation.

Near the top of that unit will be left-hander Tyler Anderson, who in his sophomore season underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee that sidelined him for 11 weeks and has him eager to pitch a full, healthy 2018 -- particularly following a topsy-turvy '17 that ended on a high note. Anderson rebounded to go 3-1 with a 1.19 ERA, 18 strikeouts and just three walks in four September outings, pitching in critical moments as the Rockies maintained their grip on the second National League Wild Card spot. However, he recalls the 7.71 ERA he posted in six April outings.

"They always say, 'It's not how you start; it's how you finish,'" Anderson said on Monday. "Last year, I feel like I didn't do much for the team early on, but at the end, I felt like I was able to do my part more. That's when it really mattered. Hopefully helping us down the stretch there was the No. 1 goal. Fortunately, I was able to go that way."

Anderson, 28, took part in the Rockies' Winter Caravan over the weekend and will soon report to the club's Spring Training facility in Scottsdale, Ariz., ahead of the club's official report date.

Anderson would like to expand on his promising yet limited repertoire that he's built on a fastball-changeup combination. He's consulted Rockies manager Bud Black, pitching coach Steve Foster and bullpen coach Darren Holmes about more often utilizing his developing curveball and cutter-slider.

"I just don't use them as frequently as I probably should, and that's something that Buddy and I have talked about -- and Foster and Holmie -- is adding pitches to the repertoire and using them more frequently," Anderson said. "I have a curveball, I just don't use it very often. We've just talked about using that more. Really, if you throw a fastball, a cutter-slider and changeup, that's four pitches right there. It's hard to have more than that."

For a philosophically fastball-first club, Anderson admittedly isn't a power pitcher like Jon Gray or German Marquez. Anderson showed a marginal increase in velocity in '17, but he's aware his changeup has elite potential. Over his first two seasons, Anderson generated a 35.5 percent whiff rate on the pitch, above league average.

"It's not a pitch that relies so much on spin," Anderson said of his changeup. "It's arm speed and arm action and a delivery that tries to make it look the same. For hitters, that's really hard to pick up. If you talk to a lot of hitters, too, they'll say it's easier to see spin on a slider. You can see its shape. Sometimes guys get away with changeups that aren't very good just because of the speed difference and you can sell it with arm action."

Anderson has been a specialist at eliciting weak contact and limiting hard hits. Among starters from 2016 and '17, Anderson's 84.1 mph average exit velocity against is tied for tops in the Majors (min. 500 batted balls), and his hard-hit rate -- classified by Statcast™ as anything with an exit velocity of 95 mph or higher -- was 28.1 percent, the sixth-lowest rate among 142 qualifying starters.

Those are promising figures, given Anderson's home confines at Coors Field are the game's most hitter-friendly.

Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.

Colorado Rockies, Tyler Anderson