By Jim Lane
CURVE, Pa. – Altoona Curve right-hander Tanner Anderson is not your typical minor league pitcher. Yes, he has the size (6-2, 190) and he’s from Tampa, Florida. Nothing unusual there.
However, Anderson has a degree from Harvard (history of science) and can play the violin, too. Not many ballplayers have either of those things on their resumes.
A 20th round (607th overall) draft pick by the Pirates in the 2015 MLB draft, Anderson wasn’t considered a top prospect until last year.
“He was one of the main reasons we won the Florida State League championship,” said Curve manager Michael Ryan, who managed Anderson in Bradenton last year. “That got him to the Arizona Fall League and his performance there got him promoted (Altoona) this year.”
Anderson split the 2016 season between West Virginia (low A) and Bradenton (high A), compiling a 3-3 record and 3.42 ERA. He made three appearances in the FSL postseason playoffs with a 1.35 ERA and two saves. In Game 4 of the FSL championship series, he pitched three scoreless, one-hit innings to clinch the league title.
Pitching for the Surprise Saguaros in Arizona, Anderson went 2-2 with a 3.76 ERA in seven starts.
“I loved it,” Anderson said of the Arizona Fall League. “It was an awesome experience to play in that kind of competition. It really prepared me for Double-A.”
As of May 21, Anderson had a 2-4 record and a 3.73 ERA as a Curve starter.
“In high school, I wasn’t heavily recruited by anyone,” Anderson said recently at Peoples Natural Gas Field, “but I got a lot of looks because I was in the same league as Lance McCullers (Astros pitcher) and the late Jose Fernandez (Marlins).
“There were a lot of MLB and college scouts, plus a lot of AAU tournaments,” he said. “I performed pretty well and that’s how I was seen. Harvard approached me and asked me to visit. I fell in love with it, the guys were friendly, made me feel at home, and that’s all it took.”
Anderson began studying biochemical engineering, but when he began playing ball he found it was too time consuming and he switched to a history of science major.
“I love science and I was able to continue in that program,” he said. “I really enjoyed it and was able to earn my degree. I was drafted as a senior so I don’t have to worry about going back for the degree.”
At Harvard, Anderson was a starter and reliever and played all infield positions before becoming a DH and relief pitcher as a senior.
“After a couple of good seasons in the minors, they (Pirates) decided they wanted me to be a starter,” he said. “I loved relief, but I love pitching in general and I treat it all the same. That’s what I’ll continue to do.”
Anderson also is noted for his high leg kick.
“In high school, my coach thought if I got a higher kick it would get me more momentum and I would stay back as well,” he said. “I got a couple miles faster.
“My kick wasn’t always as straight out like it is now,” he said. “Since my senior year in high school to pro ball, I’ve felt comfortable with it. I don’t think about it much and I only do it in the windup. In the stretch, with runners on base, I don’t do it.”
Anderson is happy to be with the Curve and happy to have Ryan as his manager again.
“Any time you can get multiple years with a manager or coaching staff, it gives you a comfort level,” Anderson said.
Ryan is glad to have Anderson as well.
“He’s arrived as a pitcher and has his name out there in the organization,” Ryan said. “His stuff is good and he has everything to be a very good pitcher.
“Plus, he has a Harvard background and is super intelligent.”
Away from baseball, Anderson loves to golf and is a big fan of movies and television series.
“I used to play violin, but I haven’t played in about six years,” he noted.
It’s baseball, not the symphony.