ANAHEIM — Just over a quarter of the way through the first year of Tyler Anderson’s three-year, $39 million deal, the Angels are still waiting to see the pitcher they hoped they had signed.
Anderson has been just as frustrated, but he still believes better days are coming.
“I always feel like I just want to outperform whatever my contract is,” Anderson said. “I know I’m capable of it. I just haven’t done it.”
Anderson, 33, has a 5.27 ERA heading into Wednesday’s start against the Boston Red Sox, which will be his ninth start of the season.
Last year he had a 2.57 ERA with the Dodgers, but his career ERA for the previous six seasons was 4.62, so it’s fair to wonder if last season was simply an outlier year that he can’t repeat.
The key to last year’s breakout was an improvement with his changeup. He went back to a grip that he’d used earlier in his career, but he abandoned it because it was too difficult to command. Last year he was able to harness the pitch and opponents hit .179 against it, whiffing on 37% of their swings.
So far this year opponents are hitting .281 against his changeup, with a whiff rate of 36.8%.
Anderson said the changeup is “getting better.” He discovered one grip tweak during his previous start and felt good about the results during his bullpen session on Monday, according to Manager Phil Nevin.
To Anderson, though, the changeup results are a side effect of what’s gone wrong with his fastball.
Anderson explained that command always starts with the fastball. He knows when he aims for a certain spot, the pitch will end up in a consistent location relative to where he’s aiming. That location changes with each secondary pitch.
If he doesn’t know exactly where the fastball is going, then he has no chance to know where his changeup is going.
“It’s hard to throw your other pitches because you’re trying to throw it where you think you should start it, but you’re not getting into the right spot, even from the start,” Anderson said.
Failing to get his fastball where he wants it has also prevented him from getting ahead in the count enough to get hitters to chase his changeup.
Anderson said all of that comes down to his mechanics, which he’s trying to refine.
“I feel like mechanically, my delivery got off to a bad start,” he said. “I kind of dug a little bit of a hole. It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish.”
Anderson had a 7.20 ERA in his first four starts, but he’s got a 3.57 ERA in his last four. Last Thursday in Baltimore, Anderson did not allow a run for the first four innings, but then he gave up three in the fifth, two on a homer.
“He’s been a lot better,” Nevin said. “It’s been the one inning that’s kind of unraveled. In the last one, it was the home run he gave up in the fifth. I thought he’s been more consistent. He’s a tireless worker. He throws every day. He’s trying to perfect his pitches.”
The chopping motion the Angels have been making to celebrate a victory is actually a sledgehammer. It began with Angels bullpen catcher Manny Del Campo and Shohei Ohtani. Del Campo made the sign with Ohtani whenever Ohtani would “hammer” a baseball for a home run or extra-base hit, and from there it spread to something they did to punctuate a victory.
Nevin said that he’s been asking Ohtani when he needs another day off, but Ohtani says he wants to keep playing. “Conversations keep happening, but right now he feels great, he doesn’t want to sit,” Nevin said. “I trust him when he’s talking about his body and how he feels. He’s normally very honest with me.” …
First baseman Jared Walsh had one hit in his first 12 at-bats after missing nearly two months dealing with neurological issues. He spent just a week in a Triple-A rehab assignment before being activated. “I think the swings have been good,” Nevin said. “He’s still trying to get that complete timing down and that whole feeling down. What he went through and the time he had to take off up until this point, it’s difficult to come right back into a big league game after only a week of taking at-bats, but I think he’s been doing a fine job at the plate. He’s made a difference on the field defensively already I think.” …
The Angels’ pre- and postgame television shows are now shot from inside the ballpark as a cost-cutting measure by Bally Sports West, whose parent company is going through bankruptcy proceedings. Fewer crew members are required to do the show from inside the ballpark than from outside the stadium.
Red Sox (LHP James Paxton, 1-0, 2.45 ERA) at Angels (LHP Tyler Anderson, 1-0, 5.27 ERA), Wednesday, 6:38 p.m., Bally Sports West, 830 AM
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