Notes: Anderson's debut; Hudson's swing

March 4th, 2021

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Tyler Anderson, the newest addition to the Pirates’ rotation, made his spring debut in Thursday’s 6-1 win over the Braves.

Anderson became the first Pittsburgh pitcher to throw more than one inning in Grapefruit League action thus far, logging two innings with one run allowed on three hits to pair with three strikeouts. The left-hander pounded the strike zone, throwing 32 strikes in his 44 pitches.

“I think the first inning he threw 17 pitches or 20 pitches, maybe three or four balls,” manager Derek Shelton said. “Execution of all of his pitches. He had an extended at-bat to start the game with [Braves leadoff hitter Ender] Inciarte and continued to throw the ball on the plate. Really good first impression.”

Anderson was able to efficiently change speeds and spin to set up his four-seamer to succeed, as the offering drew four whiffs on eight swings. But Anderson feels comfortable turning to his four-seamer, cutter or changeup for outs, with a nearly 5% spread between the putaway rate on those three offerings last season.

“I try to get outs based on location,” Anderson said. “So it's sometimes a different pitch, different locations. But if I can only get guys out with one pitch, then it makes it pretty predictable, so just to be able to throw any pitch at any count and feel comfortable with it."

Anderson was also pleased with the other half factoring into his success: batterymate Jacob Stallings. Anderson said he likes to think ahead and wants his catcher to be on the same page as him, and in their first pairing, Anderson said Stallings was on the money with his pitch calling.

If Anderson can continue to be around the zone and stay healthy, he’s sure to bolster a Pirates rotation that will see a lot of young talent get chances to compete this season.

Hudson’s swing change pays off

Joe Hudson, one of the Pirates’ depth options at catcher, said after Thursday’s game that he’d worked with hitting coach Rick Eckstein to revamp his swing. It paid off in his first Bucs at-bat, as he launched a 95-mph first-pitch fastball from William Woods a Statcast-projected 398 to right-center field.

Hudson said the homer surprised him a bit, because he doesn’t usually connect for power much to the opposite field, but he credited two fixes for his ability to gear up for the fastball and drive it the other way.

“I want to use the ground a little bit better, so I have a little bit of sink into my legs before the pitch comes, and just being a little more direct into the zone,” he said. “In the past, I’ve had some length in my swing, and I wanted to be able to handle some velocity in the box because that’s kind of where the game is trending, right? Everyone is throwing harder and I want to be able to match that intensity and that velocity.”

Medical updates

Pirates director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk provided updates on a handful of injured players on Thursday morning. Here are a few of the highlights.

• Adam Frazier (mild groin tightness) could return to games immediately, but he will need to be evaluated by Shelton and staff before they decide to put him back into game action.

“Adam wanted to play three days ago,” Tomczyk said. “So we are just making sure that Adam’s ready. We did not want little things to turn into big things.”

• Right-hander Michael Feliz threw a bullpen session to Frazier on Wednesday. Feliz was diagnosed with right forearm discomfort on Aug. 3 and he didn’t pitch another game in 2020, but Tomczyk said nothing is holding him back. The Pirates are having him throw on the back fields for now.

“Specifically for Michael, there are no setbacks, and I believe that Derek and [pitching coach Oscar Marin] have a nice plan of getting him into game activity sooner than later,” Tomczyk said.

• The Pirates are encouraged by how Anthony Alford’s arm has responded recently after he was held back from playing the outfield. Alford underwent surgery on his right elbow in September after a fracture, and while he’s cleared to DH in Grapefruit League games, he is still going through his throwing program.

“He’s made very nice strides over the past week. Obviously, hitting with no restrictions, and he’s scheduled to throw to bases tomorrow,” Tomczyk said. “We will see how the arm and the body respond to that and then have conversations with Derek about getting him into outfield play.”

• Edgar Santana threw a bullpen session earlier this week as he looks to return to action. The right-handed reliever had Tommy John surgery in September 2018, but he pitched in the Dominican Winter League for Gigantes del Cibao this offseason.

“They are ramping him back up, so there are no physical restrictions or limitations on Edgar,” Tomczyk said. “He is one of those guys that we are really going to have to monitor volume, similar to everyone in camp, but at this moment in time there are no restrictions.”