Game Report: Ian Anderson
DANVILLE, Va.—In a matter of 64 pitches, Ian Anderson showed exactly why the Braves drafted him No. 3 overall in June, but also where he needs to grow in order to reach his immense potential.
Anderson made his first start with Rookie-level Danville on Wednesday night, giving up two hits and a run in 3 2/3 innings before being pulled as he neared his limit of 65 pitches. He showed a 93-96 mph fastball with late life and a sinking mid-80s changeup, but saw his initially strong command falter near the 50-pitch mark. He came away with a no-decision in Danville’s 5-4 loss to Bristol.
“I was happy with it,” said Anderson, 18. “I thought I threw the ball well, did everything I could. It was good to get the first start out of the way. I know what I need to work on, but overall I felt like was satisfying.”
Anderson’s final line—3 2/3 innings, two hits, one run, two walks, two strikeouts—doesn’t jump out, but it was nonetheless a tantalizing debut in limited time.
The 6-foot-3, 170-pound righthander pounded the lower half of the zone with all three of his pitches, mixing a 79-82 mph curveball in with his fastball and changeup, and drew weak contact throughout the night. Anderson’s final batter, Bristol shortstop Adrian Valerio, chopped out weakly to third base, a fitting end to an evening where Anderson induced twice as many groundouts as flyouts. His only hits allowed were a pair of ground-ball singles.
“I thought he looked pretty good,” Danville manager Robinson Cancel said. “Live fastball, good curveball, good changeup. We got reports on him obviously before he came here and he was as good as the reports said.”
At the same time, Anderson showed he still has multiple areas to improve. His fastball velocity dropped to 91-93 mph as he neared the 60-pitch mark, and his inconsistent curveball bounced in the dirt more often than not.
He also threw three wild pitches, although all three were blockable balls in the dirt that escaped his catcher.
“I was just trying to be a little too fine with it instead of pounding the zone like I did the first two innings,” Anderson said. “It happens. Something I’ll learn from and move forward. It’s all about making adjustments and working on the fly as you go.”
In addition to his raw stuff, Anderson’s poise on stood out as well. After putting himself in a hole with two walks and two wild pitches in the third inning, he got ahead of Bristol’s leading hitter Victor Fernandez and got him to fly out to end the inning and escape the jam. Again in the fourth, with his pitch count rising and a runner in scoring position, Anderson made a key pitch to get the weak chopper on what was his final pitch of the night. The run he was charged with scored after he left the game, when reliever Evertz Orozco replaced Anderson and promptly served up an RBI double.
“I think he’s pretty mature for an 18-year-old kid,” Cancel said. “I like what I saw there.”
It has been a quick rise for Anderson, who pitched his final high school game less than two months ago on June 11 and now has a 0.42 ERA in his first six professional starts, the first five coming in the Gulf Coast League.
While he clearly has things to work on, he is showing the stuff, poise and ability to justify the Braves’ decision to make him their top draft choice.
“He’s pretty great,” Cancel said. “He’s going to be a special kid.”
NEWS AND NOTES
Danville first baseman Ramon Osuna hit a go-ahead two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the Braves a late lead. The Braves' 14th-round pick in June smashed a hanging slider over the high wall in right center, with the TrackMan system at the park registering the ball’s exit velocity at 110 mph and a home run distance of 430 feet. The 21-year-old lefthanded hitter out of Walters State CC in Tennessee is hitting .344/.413/.531 with nine doubles, three homers and 18 RBIs in 29 games since being drafted.
World Series Game 4 Notebook: Snitker, Braves Want To Re-Emphasize Starting Pitching
Before the first of back-to-back bullpen games in the World Series, Braves manager Brian Snitker said he'd like to see teams refocus on developing starting pitchers in the minor leagues.
Fernandez went 1-for-4 with a single and a hard lineout for Bristol to move his average to .314 and also threw out a runner at the plate with a sensational throw from left field in the first inning. The runner on the play, Danville’s Matt Gonzalez, didn’t even slide after Fernandez’s throw reached the plate on the fly and beat Gonzalez by about 10 feet. The 21-year-old from the Dominican Republic was part of the Pirates’ 2014 international signing class.