Future is now for slew of young Rockies arms

Anderson, Gray and Butler among group of Colorado's up-and-coming pitchers

Future is now for slew of young Rockies arms

DENVER -- The Rockies had seen left-hander Tyler Anderson display a fastball-changeup mix and uncommon smarts on the mound. But until Sunday, Anderson was mostly a name on a Minor League injury report to a skeptical fan base.

In his Major League debut, however, Anderson brought the scouting report to life by holding the Padres to one run and six hits with six strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings of the Rockies' 2-1 victory over the Padres. Even more, Anderson, who didn't figure in the decision, added more real-life confirmation of the pitching depth the Rockies have been building.

"It was Tyler Anderson's day to step up like that," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "Talk about a tough assignment, coming in here and pitching like that, it's big-time stuff."

Anderson, the Rockies' top pick in the 2011 MLB Draft out of Oregon, mixed his fastball and changeup to stymie Padres hitters in a debut that even he wondered when it was going to come.

In 2014, Anderson posted a 1.98 ERA in 23 starts at Double-A Tulsa, but at the end of the season developed a stress fracture in the left elbow. He didn't pitch all of 2015, but the whole time was in the Rockies' plans for 2016.

However, before his third Spring Training start, Anderson suffered a left oblique strain.

"Spring Training, it got dark real quick," Anderson said. "You're excited, feeling good, then another thing. You're like, 'Man, when's this going to go away?' I'm just happy to be back."

Anderson didn't pitch until May 18, in a Class A Advanced rehab start, and made six total Minor League starts, including three at Triple-A Albuquerque (1-1, 2.12 ERA) before being called up Saturday. He wasn't informed until Saturday night that he would start Sunday. Still, Anderson, a Las Vegas native, was able to have 15 family members and six other friends from Oregon in the stands.

Anderson's mother on debut

A cerebral pitcher, Anderson admitted that his mind was moving so rapidly that "the first [inning] went pretty quick." After that, he followed the pitch calls of veteran catcher Nick Hundley and settled in, because all his pitches were working.

The Padres challenged him in the fifth with the game still scoreless. Alexei Ramirez singled, then advanced on a balk, but Anderson forced a Brett Wallace fly to center, an Adam Rosales grounder and a strikeout of Padres pitcher Christian Friedrich -- the Rockies' first-round pick in 2008.

"Once it comes down to runners on and it gets down to a scoring situation, it becomes even more important that you really focus on executing," Anderson said. "That's the time that you can start not trusting, get away and try to overthrow things. Hundley came out and talked a little bit."

The Rockies are seeing the fruits of recent efforts to improve quality and depth. Righty Jon Gray, the No. 3 overall pick in 2013, is 3-0 with a 2.30 ERA in his last four starts. Righty Eddie Butler, who has temporarily moved to a long-relief role as the Rockies deal with the effects of action on the last 27 days, has generally pitched well in both roles.

The Rockies might need more of Anderson. They're skipping lefty Chris Rusin's next start because of greater-than-expected soreness after his last start -- six scoreless innings against the Dodgers. The disabled list is a possibility.

The Rockies also have two top-10 overall picks from 2014 -- righty Jeff Hoffman, obtained from the Blue Jays, at Albuquerque, and lefty Kyle Freeland at Double-A Hartford.

Because of the year missed due to injury, Anderson was not mentioned as highly as the others. But he was always on the Rockies' mind.

"We've thought highly of this kid for a long time," Weiss said. "The way he handles himself, he thinks at a different level. He always has. He prepares at a different level."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.