PITTSBURGH -- Establishing a culture is nothing new to Tyler Anderson.
As a freshman at Spring Valley High School in Las Vegas, Anderson played on the inaugural team and led the way. Then he went to the University of Oregon and played for the first varsity team the Ducks had fielded since 1981.
Now, Anderson, who signed with the Pirates on Wednesday on a one-year contract, joins Pittsburgh. Though the club has a history that spans more than 100 years in organized baseball, the situation is largely the same: He’s joining a club that is focused on building a culture of winning around a new core.
So Anderson said it feels like a natural fit.
“I love the idea, because I’ve been through it a few times and it’s just fun,” Anderson said. “It’s a lot of guys that are searching for something, and it’s really easy to create an identity together.”
Per a source familiar with the deal, Anderson will make $2.5 million in 2021.
Anderson should have plenty of opportunity in the rotation to make his mark. The 31-year-old broke out in 2016 with the Rockies, recording a 3.54 ERA in 19 starts despite calling hitter-friendly Coors Field his home. Since then, he’s recorded a 5.02 ERA in 67 appearances (63 starts) over four seasons -- three with the Rockies, and last season with the Giants when he posted his second-best career ERA (4.37).
With that experience, manager Derek Shelton said Anderson should really help the Pirates solidify their innings while staying competitive.
“He’s a guy that we looked at and targeted and wanted to add him to our mix,” Shelton said. “Adding another left-hander into our rotation is important, because it does break it up.”
Anderson tossed his first career complete game last season on Aug. 22 vs. the D-backs, needing only 103 pitches to get through nine innings with one unearned run and three hits allowed.
But to get to that moment, Anderson had to overcome knee injuries that plagued him after his strong debut. He landed on the 60-day injured list with left knee inflammation in 2017, then returned to it in ‘19 with a chondral defect in his left knee that affected its cartilage. Anderson said last season was the first time in a while that he could really focus on his pitching.
“You’re kind of walking out there not worried about pitching or getting outs. You’re kind of just walking out there worried about your health every day,” Anderson said. “You can barely walk. So just to be able to go out there and be healthy and take the mound, you just have freedom of mind, some clarity.”
Anderson has a mix of three fastballs -- a four-seamer that averages 90.3 mph, a cutter and a sinker -- with an infrequent curveball. But his changeup was his biggest tool in 2020, as he increased the offering’s usage to a career-high 33 percent, while allowing a .214 average and a .306 SLG against it.
Anderson also has a hitch in his windup, which he says feels completely normal, but that Shelton says could be useful on the mound.
“It is deceptive to hitters, when guys have some funk to them,” Shelton said. “And he has some funk to him that causes deception, which is always a good thing.”
A first-rounder in the 2011 Draft, Anderson has routinely posted strong quality of contact numbers, including in Statcast’s hard-hit rate and average exit velocity metrics, placing his expected ERA below his actual ERA in several seasons. He will compete for a spot in the Pirates’ rotation, currently topped by Steven Brault, Mitch Keller and Chad Kuhl. Behind them, JT Brubaker, Cody Ponce and Wil Crowe will also compete for the fourth and fifth spots.
Anderson comes in with a couple of former teammates as well. Tony Wolters, who was signed to a Minor League deal, caught Anderson while in Colorado, and the lefty calls his batterymate “a good brother” with a lot of energy.
Then there’s Chasen Shreve, his Little League teammate from Las Vegas, who also joined the Pirates on a Minor League deal. The two were coached by their dads early in their baseball lives, and the duo of pitchers are staying together this spring.
Even back in their early days, the two were facing Major League talent like Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant and Joey Gallo. Now, they may get that chance again.
“We’re sending photos back and forth of teams that we played on when we were like 9 or 10 years old,” Anderson said. “We were laughing like, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get some for our parents of both of us in the big leagues.’ That would be great. It would be a good team photo.”