June 14, 2016
By Rob Moseley
Photo: Colorado Rockies
There was a lot for Tyler Anderson to reflect upon after making his Major League debut with the Colorado Rockies on Sunday.
For one thing, Anderson introduced himself to the Majors by pitching into the seventh against the Padres and allowing just one run. For another, the 2011 first-round draft pick out of Oregon endured a five-year road to the big leagues marked by setbacks that included missing the entire 2015 season.
None of that was foremost on his mind Tuesday, when Anderson reflected back on his MLB debut 48 hours earlier.
“It wasn’t so much about the road, or the game, or being in the big leagues that really got me excited,” said Anderson, still Oregon’s all-time leader with 285 strikeouts. “It was more just thinking about my family, friends and people with Oregon baseball that were able to come out. That part, for me, was hands down the best part – knowing that your friends and family that care so much about you would come out and be there for you.”
UO coach George Horton can vouch for Anderson’s appreciation. Horton, Oregon’s coach since 2009 and a 25-year veteran of the college ranks, was one of about 20 friends and family on hand in Denver on Sunday for Anderson’s debut. Horton attended with Pat Kilkenny, who was athletic director when the Ducks reinstated baseball in 2009, plus director of operations Luke Emanuel and equipment staff member Kenny Farr.
The Oregon contingency was able to access the family area outside the Colorado locker room, and see Anderson emerge to greet his biggest fans directly after his debut.
“He about broke down crying,” Horton recalled. “It was pretty special. A rough, tough guy like that, and in that moment he was like a Little Leaguer.”
One of Horton’s first recruits at Oregon, Anderson was named the Ducks’ pitcher of the year in 2010 before sharing the honor in 2011. He struck out 105 hitters in 2010 and another 114 in 2011, and was named second-team all-America by Louisville Slugger as a junior.
Anderson came to Eugene from Las Vegas as a solid left-hander who threw 83 to 86 mph. In three years working with Horton and then-pitching coach Andrew Checketts, Anderson developed into a bulldog who threw 92 to 93.
“As he matured, you started to see a guy with big-league potential,” Horton said. “I’ve never met a more determined or committed athlete.”
Anderson said the tutelage he got with the Ducks served him Sunday.
“Coach Horton really helps you learn baseball and slow the game down, and Checketts as well,” Anderson said. “Once you get to situations like this, where it starts to feel faster, you have something to fall back on and slow it down a little bit.”
In 2014, Anderson seemed poised to break through. He was named Texas League pitcher of the year after going 7-4 with a 1.98 ERA and 106 strikeouts in 118.1 innings for the Tulsa Drillers. But an injury sidelined Anderson all of last season, delaying his continued ascension up the organizational ranks.
The call from Colorado finally came Saturday, when the Rockies put closer Jake McGee on the disabled list. Anderson thought he was being summoned to provide bullpen depth, then found out Saturday night he would be starting Sunday against the Padres.
“It was cool,” Anderson said. “You’ve been working your whole life to try to get there. I was just sitting on pins and needles, just excited the whole night. It was like the night before Christmas as a little kid.”
Coincidentally, Anderson’s offseason roommate, Scott McGough, became the first UO alum since baseball’s reboot to make the majors, last summer as a reliever for Miami. When Anderson threw his first pitch Sunday, he became just the fifth veteran of the Oregon baseball program to start a Major League game, and the first since Curt Barclay in 1958.
Anderson began his MLB career with six scoreless innings Sunday, in which he allowed five hits with no walks and six strikeouts. He was pulled after giving up a double and recording one out in the seventh, with the runner coming around to score off a reliever.
As big-league debuts go, Anderson’s was pretty, pretty, pretty good.
“I never really expected anything,” he said. “You always dream about it, but you really just dream about getting there and making the first pitch. After that, it’s up in the air. Obviously I was happy with the way it went.”
By happenstance, Sunday’s game was the first MLB debut by one of his players that Horton was able to attend. That fact, and watching it alongside Kilkenny, who oversaw the rebirth of Oregon’s program, “made it even more special,” Horton said.
Anderson’s debut gave the Rockies another option in a rotation that’s in flux due to injuries and inconsistency. He’s unsure what specific role he’ll fill in the immediate future. But if Sunday was any indication, Anderson is capable of helping the big-league club right now.
“The second start is probably going to be even harder,” he said. “There’s not going to be family there supporting you, not the same kind of adrenaline rush. Every single game, whether at High-A or Double-A or in college, if you ever think it’s going to be easy, it’s probably going to turn around on you. This game can humble you real quick.”
For at least one afternoon this past Sunday, however, Anderson was pitching on cloud nine, and he had all of Oregon baseball celebrating the moment with him.