05/30/2002 5:18 pm ET
Anderson aims for better results
Pitcher would like to put two rough outings behind him
By Ed Eagle / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word enigma as one that is puzzling, ambiguous or inexplicable. For Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon, Jimmy Anderson has been the personification of this word.
Entering his third season as a member of the Pirates starting rotation, it was hoped that Anderson would develop into a steady Major League starter. Instead, the 26-year-old has been beleaguered by inconsistency.
Anderson's performance in Thursday's 9-8 loss to the Cubs was another example of his roller coaster season. Nine days before, Anderson blanked the Cubs on two hits in seven innings. He had also been 2-2 with a solid 3.20 ERA in his previous four starts. But any momentum built off of those outings was quickly dashed Thursday. Anderson lasted just three innings and was touched for seven runs [six earned] on five hits and two walks. He also hit a batter.
"Jimmy didn't have much today," said McClendon. "He got the ball up in the zone. It was not a good outing."
"The last Chicago game, I threw the ball all over the place and I give up no hits and two runs in seven innings," added Anderson. "Today I felt a lot better and you see what happens.
"It's frustrating, but you just have to go out and get ready for your next start."
Anderson fell behind 2-0 in the second inning but was right back in the game when the Bucs offense knotted it at 2-2 in the bottom of the frame. The Cubs then blew the game open in the third. A walk, a single and an error loaded the bases for Mark Bellhorn, who promptly deposited Anderson's 1-1 pitch into the left-field bleachers for his first career grand slam. Alex Gonzalez followed with a solo shot to center field and it was suddenly 7-2.
"They actually weren't bad [pitches], either one of them," said Anderson. "The pitch to Bellhorn was down and in and Gonzalez was a little outside. It was a changeup 1-0 and I didn't think he would go deep to center field. I didn't think it would go out at all."
Prior to his solid four-game stretch, Anderson was mired in three-game losing streak during which he had 10.53 ERA. Anderson started that slide by giving up eight runs on 11 hits and three walks in five innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 23. Before that contest, Anderson had started the season 2-1 with a 2.61 ERA. Maybe the most bizarre statistic is that Anderson has seven quality starts in 11 appearances despite a 4-7 record and an ERA of 5.31.
"It definitely bothers me a little bit," said Anderson. "Everybody is going to have [a bad game] but I try to just keep it to one. When I get it to two, like now, I definitely need to get a good start next time. I can't let it keep going."
According to pitching coach Spin Williams, control has been Anderson's biggest problem.
"His command has been very erratic this year," said Williams. "When he is down in the zone, throwing strikes, he is an effective pitcher. But, as you saw today, he was behind a lot of hitters, throwing a lot of pitches to different hitters and walking guys on four pitches.
"It's just the consistency of being able to throw the ball over the plate, down in the zone, for strikes. We have been working on it. It's a confidence thing. Another thing is consistent mechanics and being able to trust his stuff to allow him to go after hitters instead of trying to be too fine."
McClendon, who has seen Anderson throw with great control in the bullpen, agrees with his pitching coach's assessment.
"It's just a matter of taking it to the game and trusting his stuff," said McClendon.
"The problem is, when you get between the lines and there is some competition, it is hard to trust that stuff or to throw a little softer because you are worried about getting hit."
With Anderson eligible for arbitration -- and potentially a healthy raise -- after this year and young arms such as Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Guerrier on the horizon, a consistent season could make general manager Dave Littlefield's off-season decisions a little tougher. As it stands now, he remains a mystery that no one on the Pirates can seem to solve.
"He's certainly the [player]who keeps me the most puzzled because his stuff is tremendous and I really think he can win in this league," said McClendon. "Hopefully he'll get it together soon."
Ed Eagle covers the Pittsburgh Pirates for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.