PITTSBURGH — Tyler Anderson knows about team building.
The left-hander entered Spring Valley High in Las Vegas, Nevada, as a freshman when the school opened in 2004. He helped Oregon kick-start its fledging program when the Ducks returned to the Division I level in 2009 following 27 years as a club sport.
Getting in on the ground floor is kind of his thing. No wonder he’s not exactly concerned about joining the Pittsburgh Pirates in the nascent stages of a franchise-wide makeover. The 31-year-old finalized a one-year deal worth $2.5 million on Wednesday, becoming part of the present for a club that is very clearly pointing toward the future. That’s fine by Anderson.
“I know the culture over here they want to create is a winning culture,” Anderson said. “And I don’t think that had any involvement in them signing me, but for me, I love the idea because I’ve been through it a few times and it’s just fun. It’s a lot of guys that are searching for something, and it’s really easy to create an identity together.”
Anderson is coming off a 4-3 season in San Francisco after spending his first four years in the majors in Colorado. He pitched in a respectable 59 2/3 innings in 13 games (11 starts) for the Giants and the ability to be a potential workhorse for a staff in the process of replacing four starters wasn’t lost on manager Derek Shelton.
“We’re looking for stability,” Shelton said. “We did some research on the person and came back with really positive stuff. I had the opportunity to talk to him at length today so it’s nice to add him to the mix.”
A mix that finds itself in a very transitional phase after Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams, Chris Archer and Joe Musgrove all left in some fashion or another during the offseason. Mitch Keller, 24 and with all of 16 career starts under his belt, is the closest thing the Pirates have to a top-end starter. Enter Anderson, who doesn’t see the inexperience surrounding him as a negative.
“The guys here are young, but I watched four or five pens today while I was out there, and there’s some young guys, but they’re nasty,” Anderson said. “There’s a lot of talent, too. So obviously I haven’t seen a lot of guys pitch in games yet, but a lot of these guys I think are really talented, and it’s fun to watch.”
Anderson also appreciates the chance to pitch at PNC Park, particularly after spending four years working in the thin air at Coors Field. He gave up a major league-leading 30 home runs in 2018, or 1.5 home runs per nine innings pitched. That number dropped to 0.8 per nine innings last year while playing in San Francisco.
“In more pitcher-friendly parks, you have the opportunity to, if you fall behind and you have an open base, it’s not quite as dangerous, because you’re not so worried about the long ball,” Anderson said. “And a lot of balls in the gaps might not go as far either. So you have an opportunity to pick your spots to pitch a little more. So for me, it’s fun, because I like to pitch, so it gives you opportunities to work on that stuff.”
The signing also reunites Anderson with Little League teammate Chasen Shreve, who signed a minor-league deal with the Pirates that includes an invitation to big-league camp. The two grew up playing together in Las Vegas and plan to be roommates in Bradenton.
“We’re sending photos back and forth of teams that we played on when we were like 9 or 10 years old.,” Anderson said. “We were laughing like, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get some for our parents of both of us in the big leagues. That would be great.’”
Shreve, a reliever, would need to make the roster for that to happen in Pittsburgh. Anderson is guaranteed a spot and fully healthy after undergoing left knee surgery in 2019 that cut short his time with the Rockies.
“Hust to be able to go out there and be healthy and take the mound, you just have freedom of mind, some clarity, and you can go out there and focus on the things you need to focus about, instead of worrying, like, ‘Can I walk back to the dugout after that?’ Or, ‘If this guy gets a base hit, can I back up a base?’” Anderson said. “You can go out there and worry about executing, and that’s all you have to worry about.”