Sidelines gave Anderson valuable perspective

Sidelines gave Anderson valuable perspective

DENVER -- Rockies left-handed pitcher Tyler Anderson sat in the Dodger Stadium visiting dugout, watching all of a raucous celebration and enjoying none of it.

Anderson had started the Sunday afternoon game that ended with the Dodgers' Charlie Culberson's 10th-inning home run for a 4-3 victory. The Dodgers celebrated the homer that clinched the National League West and waved a heartfelt goodbye to retiring broadcaster Vin Scully. Anderson sat, stewed and dreamed.

"I wanted to see how they did it, because everyone on this team believes that's going to be us next year," Anderson said at the time.

The Rockies hope those are prophetic words. Anderson proved last season during a solid rookie campaign (5-6, 3.54 ERA in 19 starts) that if forced to sit and watch, he can apply the lessons when he's back in action.

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Anderson, the Rockies' top pick in the 2011 Draft, was limited to 89 2/3 innings in Class A in 2013 because of a left elbow stress fracture. At Double-A Tulsa in 2014, he went 7-4 with a 1.98 ERA in 23 starts before being shut down, as it turned out the fracture hadn't healed properly. The Rockies held him out of the 2015 season to make sure the problem was corrected.

But Anderson used that time for detailed observation.

When Anderson wasn't rehabbing at the team's training center Scottsdale, Ariz., the Rockies kept him with Triple-A Albuquerque. Rockies righty Tyler Chatwood and veteran lefty John Lannan, who spent 2015 with Albuquerque, were valuable mentors.

"I would really spend my time watching the Rockies game at home or with the Albuquerque team," Anderson said. "When I was in Scottsdale, I was texting with Chatwood a lot about games and talking to Lannan a lot when I was in Albuquerque.

"It was nothing really in specific -- just a constant flow of learning."

Entering last spring, the Rockies viewed a finally healthy Anderson as a legitimate candidate for the season-opening rotation. But another injury -- a right oblique strain -- forced him into another waiting period.

"Last spring, I was frustrated with the oblique injury, not because I wanted to break with the team, but because I was finally starting to pitch for the first time in over a year," Anderson said. "It was easy to stay positive with the guys that surround us with the Rockies. Every player and every staff member at each level helps you directly or indirectly, in one way or another."

After six Minor League rehab starts, Anderson debuted by holding the Padres to one run and six hits in 6 1/3 innings, but he didn't figure in the decision in a 2-1 Rockies victory on June 12. Anderson went at least 5 2/3 innings and gave up three or fewer runs in his first six starts. On July 9, he held the Phillies to two runs on nine hits in six innings, and he went 2-for-2 with his first home run since high school while earning his first win, 8-3, at Coors Field.

Anderson's milestone game

"I don't even know what happened that day," Anderson said, jokingly.

Anderson, 27, is part of a young rotation that has the Rockies excited, partly because Coors Field did not bother him. Anderson went 5-2 with a 3.00 ERA at home. In fact, he, fellow rookie Jon Gray and Chad Bettis all were markedly better at home than on the road.

From his callup to season's end, Anderson led Major League rookies in innings pitched (114 1/3) and fielding-independent pitching (3.64), and was second in ERA (3.54) and fourth in strikeouts (99). He finished with 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings against 2.2 walks per nine.

Anderson's calling card is a four-seam fastball with enough late movement to produce weak contact, and a 50.9 percent ground-ball rate.

A Las Vegas native and former University of Oregon star, Anderson showed all that time spent watching was not wasted.

"I never really knew what it would take to contribute to the big league team," he said. "My thought process has always been to try and help the team win wherever I was. That's a lot harder to do when you're banged up."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for 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.