The Giants were not expecting Tyler Anderson to be ready for the start of the season. They picked him up from Colorado knowing they would have to be patient with a 30-year-old coming off knee surgery and wondered if he would start the year on the 60-day injured list.
A pandemic has a way of changing just about everything, though.
Anderson was on the mound for Thursday’s intrasquad scrimmage at Oracle Park and looked as strong as any Giants starter, tossing three hitless and walk-less innings — Yolmer Sanchez was drilled, which accounted for the only baserunner — while striking out four.
The Giants loaded the top of the opposing lineup with righties against the southpaw, but Sanchez, Mauricio Dubon, Hunter Pence, Wilmer Flores, Darin Ruf and Joey Bart could not sniff out a mistake pitch. After not making a Cactus League appearance while still recovering, Anderson was precise and looked ready for the season, his fastball buzzing off corners, all while hitters never fully looked comfortable.
He pitches with a hitch, a slight pause after cocking his raised right leg, and hitters had trouble getting the timing right.
“I think that hitch is one of the things that makes him unique,” said Gabe Kapler, who called Anderson’s outing sharp. “Pitching is all about upsetting rhythm and timing of hitters, and Tyler definitely looks different on the mound.”
Before injuries struck, Anderson was a rare pitching success story in Colorado, putting up a 3.54 ERA in 19 starts in 2016. Left knee surgery ended his 2017 campaign, in ’18 he gave up a league-leading 30 home runs, and then he made just five starts in 2019 before his left knee again needed surgery.
Farhan Zaidi took a flier, and Anderson gave a snapshot into why while pitching in a ballpark much more to his liking. The Giants will be flexible at all costs with their staff, with Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Drew Smyly and Kevin Gausman the certainties to receive starts. But those outings will be brief, at least at the onset, and Anderson will fall alongside Logan Webb and Trevor Cahill (eventually) as the best bulk-inning options.
Though, if Anderson continues throwing like he did Thursday, the bulk will get bulkier.
Other pitching notes from Thursday:
Lefty Caleb Baragar, a late camp addition after spending most of last season as a Double-A Richmond starter, had another strong day in pitching two scoreless innings.
Kapler said he and the staff were discussing his windup — “he’s got a little bit of a rock-back and a straight, over-the-top” delivery — and it brought Andy Pettitte to mind.
“I’m not saying Caleb’s a Hall of Famer,” Kapler said.
One of Baragar’s victims was even more effusive.
“The ball explodes out of his hand,” said Mike Yastrzemski, who has hit southpaws well but struck out in the at-bat. “Looked really, really good. I think he’s got a good future ahead of him, and hopefully we’ll see him as soon as possible.”
Shaun Anderson had been optioned to minor league camp just as camp 1.0 broke, yet he’s very much back in the mix for a major league job. He let Joey Bart drop a single into center, but then struck out the side in Steven Duggar, Chad Tromp and Joey Rickard.