The Oakland A's talented left-hander retired the last eight hitters he faced after struggling to find his command in his first two innings. Afterwards, he reported no pain in his surgically repaired left elbow to the River Cats’ coaching staff. In 4.1 innings, he allowed three runs on five hits, with three strikeouts and two walks.
Of course, numbers are the least important aspect of rehabilitation from tendon replacement surgery for pitchers. Anderson might have the highest ceiling of any starting pitcher on Oakland’s roster and is considered a vital piece of the club’s future.
“I’m past the point of being a rehab guy. I’m more of a pitcher now, just focused on pitching and trying to get hitters out,” Anderson said before Sunday’s start.
Sunday’s outing marked the fourth official rehab appearance Anderson has made this season. His first came on July 21 with High-A Stockton, before making three-straight appearances with Triple-A Sacramento.
“I thought he got better and better as the game went on,” River Cats pitching coach Scott Emerson said after Sunday’s start.
“The arm is conditioned. It’s in good shape. He needs to better the command obviously. That’s going to take some time because he hasn’t pitched in over a year.”
Anderson struggled out of the gate on Sunday, allowing all three of his runs in the first inning, including a solo homerun by Caleb Gindl. The left-hander appeared to have a hard time getting on top of both breaking pitches, but settled down in the third inning before retiring eight-straight batters.
“My last outing was a big step forward as far as getting my pitches in order," Anderson said.
"I got the first two starts out of the way and I’m past the point of worrying about how my arm’s feeling the next day. So now I can just kind of work on honing my pitches, getting back to being a pitcher and finding a routine. And I’m getting closer and closer."
Once Anderson settled down, his breaking pitches were snapping toward the bottom of the strike zone, reminiscent of his days back in Oakland. His velocity wasn’t in the mid-to-high-90s like it had been in previous seasons with the A’s, but Emerson said he was able to reach 93 consistently with his fastball.
“The first two outings, (my breaking balls) weren’t very sharp," Anderson aaid.
"That was to be expected. My last start in Reno – normally a tough place to make the ball spin – that was a big step forward. Baby steps."
Anderson threw 70 pitches on Sunday, 41 of which were strikes. He threw 73 in his previous start in Reno, and he allowed two earned runs on four hits in four innings. In Salr Lake City on July 26, he allowed three earned runs in four innings, throwing 53 pitches.
“The first two outings, I was kind of limited,” Anderson said. “The last outing was more ‘go get ‘em, try and get people out.’ The first two or three weren’t about results.”
Emerson has also seen a progression.
“The first game in Salt Lake, his breaking pitches kind of blended a little bit where his curveball and slider looked the same. Last game in Reno, you could see the separation between the curveball and slider. His slider is a huge pitch for him,” Emerson said.
Emerson pointed out that Anderson remains in spring training mode and it’s possible he could stumble upon a case of ‘dead arm’ as his rehab progresses.
- The River Cats would win the game on Sunday by a score of 8-3. Shane Peterson homered twice and Grant Green extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a homer and a double. Jermaine Mitchell had three hits and Anthony Recker had two. Recker has a nine-game hitting streak.
- Brad Peacock, who would have been the starter if Anderson wasn't rehabbing, worked four innings of relief and earned the win. He allowed no runs on two hits and one walk and he struck-out nine. The right-hander has allowed two runs or less in four of his last five outings.