Anderson bathes in success after electric debut

May 31st, 2023

DETROIT -- Grant Anderson’s heart was beating out of his chest, and the entire stadium could probably tell. His first pitch, an 85 mph slider, missed high above the strike zone to Tigers outfielder Zach McKinstry.

And who could blame him? Anderson certainly hadn’t been given an easy situation in which to make his MLB debut.

It was a 7-6 lead for Texas at Comerica Park when the Tigers knocked out Rangers starter with two outs in the fifth inning, putting up six runs on seven hits and four walks against the lefty. So Texas manager Bruce Bochy turned to Anderson, looking to preserve a one-run lead with Miguel Cabrera on second.

Anderson rose to the occasion -- and then some. In an electric MLB debut on Tuesday night, the 25-year-old retired eight of the nine hitters he faced. He picked up four consecutive strikeouts to open his outing and finished with seven K’s in 2 2/3 innings out of the bullpen.

The only baserunner Anderson allowed came on a one-out single from Cabrera in the eighth, as Texas outslugged Detroit in a 10-6 victory to secure a series win.

“I know in all my years, I can't think of a better debut than what he did,” Bochy said. “I think seven strikeouts is just so impressive. He had so much poise out there. He really gave us what we needed. I was so impressed with how he handled himself. … It really was high leverage. The things I had heard about him, he's got a great makeup, so I was not worried about that. And when he came to the mound, I could see the confidence in this kid. It was just a tremendous job by him.”

Anderson was rewarded with a Gatorade bath from Pérez postgame, as is tradition for the Rangers’ player of the game.

“It’s good to see him doing what he was doing today,” Pérez said. “He picked me up, too. I'm really happy for him. … I know it was not a good game for me, but the team still won the game, and I'm OK with that. I'm not a selfish guy. I don't care about me, I just care about my team, and I think it's most important when you win as a team.”

Anderson’s appearance was the first time in Rangers history that a player has struck out seven batters while coming out of the bullpen in his Major League debut.

Anderson accomplished a rare feat when he pitched more than two scoreless innings, struck out seven hitters and got the win as a reliever in his MLB debut. Hayden Wesneski pulled it off last September for the Cubs, but before him, only the Pirates' Barry Jones (1986) and the Dodgers' Pete Richert ('62) had done it. Shrink the list to pitchers who allowed one hit or fewer and only Anderson and Richert remain.

“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to [catcher] Jonah [Heim], he called the pitches,” Anderson said. “He kind of helped guide me through that way. I just wanted to execute, and the results ended up being really good. I'm really happy and excited about that. I'm just overall blessed. My family was here to get to see it. My wife, my mom and dad, my siblings, I just really can't put into words what it means, but it means a lot for sure.”

Anderson posted a 2-0 record with one save and a 3.54 ERA over 15 appearances between Triple- A Round Rock and Double-A Frisco this season, striking out 40.5% of the batters he faced. He struck out 38 of 88 at the Triple-A level, good for the highest strikeout rate in the Pacific Coast League at 43.2% (minimum 20 innings).

Anderson brought that flair and his funky delivery -- which Bochy called “herky jerky” -- to the big leagues.

“His angle's different,” said Tigers manager A.J. Hinch. “You don't see a lot of guys turn as far away from the hitters as he does in his delivery. And he was unfazed in the fact that he was brand new to this level. They obviously called him up for a reason. We couldn't create any stress on him to make him realize it's not that easy up here."

Anderson joked that it was perhaps the second-best day of his life, after his wedding, before emphasizing how much his debut meant for him and his family.

“The first thing is, it'll give me confidence in the next outing,” Anderson said. “Obviously after you realize you can get outs here, [against] some of the best in the world, it just helps you with confidence for the next one. As far as memories go, it's definitely up there. My parents worked really hard to raise us, and I just know that they're really proud of it. I think that's what means the most today.

“I'm just really blessed and really fortunate and glad that the Rangers have given me the opportunity. I don't really know what other words I could put to describe it, but it feels really good.”