SAN FRANCISCO — Everything is new for Tyler Anderson. There is a different uniform, unfamiliar teammates and an unprecedented two-part spring training necessitated by a global pandemic.
But the one thing of note that should encourage the Giants is Anderson is throwing without a familiar ache in his left knee that was an issue for much of his career after being a first-round draft pick by the Colorado Rockies.
“It’s been a few years since I’ve been dealing with it so it’s hard to remember what it was like when I was 25 years old,” Anderson said Saturday before the Giants conducted an evening scrimmage at Oracle Park. “I feel strong. I’ve put some weight back on, I’ve been able to get stronger, get my legs stronger.”
Anderson, 30, has pitched in two simulated games and was shaky in the first outing and sharp in the second. Exactly where the left-hander fits into the Giants plans is a story in progress like much of the roster.
In 2018, Anderson was good enough to draw the starting assignment in the National League Division series for the Rockies against the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 2. He pitched well, too, giving up four hits and one earned run with two walks and five strikeouts.
But by the end of the 2019, Anderson was no longer in Colorado’s plans. The Giants claimed him off waivers last December 2, and then after Anderson was granted free agency, he signed back up with the Giants the following day.
Anderson was the first of many low-risk, high-reward signings by general manager Farhan Zaidi, coming aboard even before Gabe Kapler was hired as manager. For the reasonable cost of $1,775,000, the Giants took on a pitcher who was once one of the top prospects in Colorado. If he works out, great. If not, no big deal.
Although Anderson wouldn’t have been ready to start the season if it had started on time, he’s in contention for an undetermined role on the Giants’ roster. Kapler hasn’t named starters beyond Johnny Cueto on Thursday night in the season opener against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
Jeff Samardizja, Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly are likely candidates, but after that it’s a hodge-podge of long relievers, short relievers and a goal to determine who can pitch on back to back days and during a 60-game sprint.
Anderson, with an 18-24 career record with a 4.69 earned run average and has made 71 starts and only two relief appearances since 2016 but realizes the short season presents a unique set of circumstances.
“I think there’s some evaluating going on and people are trying to figure out what your role is going to be,” Anderson said. “Personally I would like to start. I’ve done that my whole career. It’s what I’m comfortable with. It’s what I’ve known. But I’m open to the idea that I can bring anything to the table to help us win.”
After having extensive knee surgery for a “chondral defect” — in which cartilage and an underlying bone are repaired — Anderson is beginning to feel his stuff come around as the season approaches.
“Each game you go out there your intensity rises and your timing and your rhythm and your stuff comes back as you face that,” Anderson said.
As for the unusual nature of the season ramp-up, Anderson is trying to make it work for him.
If anything I think it’s forcing guys to get comfortable being uncomfortable in some situations,” Anderson said. “You might not have the full time you normally have to go through your routines but you figure out how to do it the best you can. It makes you appreciate every rep you have instead of maybe taking a couple for granted.”
SLATER SAYS OUTFIELD LINES A CHALLENGE
The Giants not only altered “Triples Alley” in center field but also added some seats down the left and right field foul lines, giving outfielders precariously little room when chasing balls toward the line.
“You might see a couple more homers, but I think as far as playing the lines, guys are going to have to start sliding sometimes before they hit the dirt,” Slater said. It’s going to make right and left field a little tougher.”
TROMP GOES DEEP
Catcher Chadwick Tromp took Cueto deep to left field for a home run in the fourth inning of a simulated game. Cueto gave up two runs, one earned, in the first inning in a 66-pitch performance with 44 strikes.
First baseman Brandon Belt had two plate appearances while under instructions not to run after making contact. He flied to center and grounded out. Belt is nursing a heel injury.
Non-roster right-hander Andrew Treggs had a scoreless inning, as did left-hander Sam Selman and right-hander Danny Jiminez.
KAPLER NOTES: RAMOS OUT WITH INFECTION
Outfield prospect Heliot Ramos is out with an infection that Kapler doesn’t believe to be serious.
“I don’t have concerns about this being a major setback,” Kapler said.
Kapler hoped for a more informed update Sunday.
— Kapler chose his words carefully to assess the sound of fake crowd noise.
“I’ll answer this question very diplomatically,” Kapler said. “We wish we had fans in the stands, put it that way.”
Kapler’s assessment of Pablo Sandoval: “He’s taken as good a swings as anybody in camp. He’s worked his his tail off around first base and third base. He’s good to go.”
Kapler on the approach of catcher and prize prospect Joey Bart: “The one thing I’ll say about Joey, he’s had an incredibly professional camp. With all of the conversations that have been swirling about, he’s never let that impact his work in the bullpen and his work with our pitchers. He’s been a pro.”
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Author: Jerry McDonald