ROCKIES’ MANAGER BUD BLACK ON VEGAS’ TYLER ANDERSON: ‘A WILL TO WIN SECOND TO NONE'
A healthy Tyler Anderson figures to be one of the keys to how far the Colorado Rockies go in 2018, after their wild-card finish in 2017.
Manager Bud Black put it this way: “If Tyler makes his 33-34 starts, we’ll be in business.”
Because of injuries, the 6-foot-4 lefthander out of Las Vegas has been limited to 19 and 15 starts in his first two seasons.
When he’s healthy, as he was during much of his rookie season in 2016, Anderson stood out for his ability to pitch in Coors Field, a house of horrors for many who can’t cope with the effects of high altitude on their pitches.
All Anderson did was post the lowest earned run average at Coors Field (3.54 in 20 appearances) in franchise history. After his July 12 debut, he went 5-6, with a 3.54 ERA, the second lowest ERA by a rookie in franchise history (minimum of 100 innings).
Injuries took a toll in 2017. He twice landed on the 10-day disabled list and once on the 60-day DL. After the latter absence of 11 weeks following arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, he came back strong after returning on Sept. 10. He helped the Rockies nail down the wildcard spot by going 3-1 with a 1.19 ERA in four appearances covering 22 2/3 innings. He struck out 18 and walked three.
That finish laid the foundation for high expectations for the Rockies’ first round pick in 2011 (20th overall).
Black, who spent 15 years in the majors as pitcher and 10 as manager, had high praise for Anderson during a pre-game interview on Sunday at Coors Field.
“Nobody’s more prepared than Tyler,” said Black. “He’s got a will to win that’s second to none, which I really like. “
Anderson, a 2008 graduate of Spring Valley High School, enters 2018 with high expectations.
He hopes to avoid a repeat of last April, when he posted a 7.71 ERA in six outings. He went Tuesday’s start against San Diego at Coors Field with a 0-0 record after two starts and a 7.56 ERA. He was roughed up for seven earned run in 2 1/3 innings in his season debut at Arizona on March 30 than rebounded with six scoreless innings against San Diego. Anderson gave up four hits, zero walks and struck out four. He followed that performance with another quality start: six innings, seven hits, two earned runs in what later ended in a 5-2 loss after he left the game. The loss was the Rockies’ seventh in 12 games.
Anderson has come a long way from high school when he was a 50th round draft choice of the Minnesota Twins in 2008, Instead, he went to Oregon, where he blossomed into a two-time Pac-20 All-Conference second team selection.
"He came up to the big leagues with a great deal of confidence that he could win here,” said Black. “He’s had some outstanding performances and he’s continued to grow as a pitcher. “
Anderson, who turns 29 on December 30, attributes his success at the big league level to his formative years at Spring Valley High under coach Mike Gomez and in the highly competitive Las Vegas baseball scene, which has become a hotspot for talent.
A lucky break came when Gomez came out of retirement, after building a powerhouse program at Durango. He was one of the best coaches in the valley,” said Anderson.
“He started the program at Spring Valley. I learned so much at the time I didn’t even know what I was learning. “
Gomez stressed situational basics. “We were practicing bunt plays every single day and pickoffs. Things we hardly never ever used in high school, but when I got to Oregon and we were learning all these things and everyone was learning them for the first time, I felt like I was ahead of the game.
“At the time I thought ‘man, why are we out here?’ It’s 100 degrees. We’ve done bunt plays 17 times. Now I understand at the end of the day that’s probably what’s going to win the game, a bunt play or a leadout or execution.”
He added, “In high school I was not a great player by any means. I just liked to compete and that division we played in was always really tough. I think we were always like third or fourth but No. 1 and 2 were (Bishop) Gorman and Sierra Vista.” Gorman was ranked No. 1 in the nation in Baseball America’s pre-season poll in 2009.
“So we had a really good division,” that included rising star Kris Bryant. “That whole valley is so strong with players now.” Anderson was on the same travel teams with Bryant and Bryce Harper. “I was a junior in high school and they were maybe eighth graders going into the ninth grade, but they were so good. They were so physically developed at 13-14 years old they could play with seniors.”
He attributes the high caliber of baseball in Las Vegas to “great year-round weather” and the population explosion.
“If you’re playing year around you’re going to be playing better guys and talent breeds talent,” he said.
Anderson believes the Rockies could be on the brink of a special season.
“I think the sky’s the limit. Baseball is one of those games where a team gets hot, you can go on crazy runs.
“And sometimes great teams on paper end up not playing well. And there are so many things that can happen with injuries and all of the above. If this team clicks the way it can from our position players, and our defense, especially. That’s one thing, defense never slumps. And our defense is great. It will keep us in every game because it’s always there and our offense can be super, super potent and we’re so deep that if some guys are off, we’ll find ways to manufacture some runs. And our bullpen is unbelievable and our starters. We’re a pretty young starting corps and so if we can get the ball rolling baseball is one of those (sports) that’s contagious. Hitting is contagious and so is pitching. Guys start having good starts and we start feeding off each other.”
He said the Rockies have “done a really great job of getting young talent and our pitching especially. German Marquez is super young (23). He’s filthy. His stuff is amazing. His stuff is as good as anyone I’ve seen, and Jon Gray (26) and Freeland (24), all these guys are super nasty. On top of that, they compete.
“They can be something special,” he said.
Chad Bettis, who overcame testicular cancer, is the oldest member of the starting unit. He turns 29 this month. He had a 3.45 ERA in 31 1/3 in his five starts at Coors in 2017.
The pieces are in place after an 87-75 season, the second-best in franchise history.
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