Shaun Anderson, Giants' top pitching prospect, ready for MLB debut

Shaun Anderson, Giants' top pitching prospect, ready for MLB debut

SAN FRANCISCO -- Few pitching staffs in recent college baseball history have been as decorated as the one Shaun Anderson was part of at the University of Florida. The rotation was so loaded with marquee arms that Anderson was forced to become the closer.

A funny thing happened on the way to the big leagues, though. The Gators' closer was the first to make it to a big league rotation. 

Anderson will make his MLB debut on Wednesday against the Toronto Blue Jays, auditioning for a spot in a Giants rotation that all of a sudden is in transition. He will toe the big league rubber before former Gators A.J. Puk and Dane Dunning, who have been set back by Tommy John surgery, and Alex Faedo and Brady Singer, who are working their way through the minors. 

This may all seem like it happened quickly for Anderson, as even a few months ago the Giants were still trying to figure out if he was better served as a starter or reliever. But he has prepared for this opportunity and spent much of his spring talking to veterans about what a big league debut is like.

"They said that when you do get the call, just know that you're on the team now," Anderson said. "You're here to help them win."

Since stealing Anderson in the Eduardo Nuñez deal two years ago, the Giants have always felt the right-hander could help them do that. He has a big arm and a bulldog's demeanor on the mound, and during the spring there were plenty of signs that veterans were ready to bring him into the fold. Buster Posey caught Anderson's first bullpen session of camp, and Madison Bumgarner would good-naturedly call the long-haired young pitcher "Baby Thor" as he walked through the clubhouse. 

Anderson kept his head down and impressed in the spring, and then went out and made his way through the landmines of the ridiculously offense-heavy Pacific Coast League. He was averaging more than a strikeout per inning and allowed just three home runs in seven starts. That last stat stood out as management decided to make changes. 

"We're shaking up the rotation a little bit so we need someone for that spot," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We had a spot open and he's a guy that's throwing as well as anybody down there, so that's why he's here."

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It initially may just be a day in the big leagues, as the Giants have hit the "young man, you have minor league options, so ..." portion of their season. But whether it's now or over the course of the second half, Anderson, 24, will get a long look. The Giants need to find out if he's part of the next contender they build.

They nearly did last year, as Anderson was flown to New York and was all set to start at Citi Field before the team changed plans. The flight this time was much further for his parents, who live in Florida, but they'll be there for his first big league pitch. Well, maybe. 

"I heard there's rain coming," Anderson said, smiling. 

How Giants' Kevin Pillar was brilliantly depicted by this local artist


How Giants' Kevin Pillar was brilliantly depicted by this local artist

Watching any pre- or postgame show on location, you'll see fans waving cheer cards behind NBC Sports Bay Area/California broadcasts. On one side "Authentic Fan" is proudly stamped in team colors. 

But on the other side, there's always a treat.

And in this case, a very artistic treat. The back of the cards showcase some local artists' renditions of players, past and present. This time around, it's Giants outfielder Kevin Pillar in a creation by Amanda Mantchev. 

Amanda is a senior graphic designer at NBC Sports Bay Area/California. You follow her other outstanding work on Instagram, here

Before we unveil the cheer card to you, which will be available on Say Hey Tuesday, June 25, when the Giants host the Rockies at Oracle Park, let's give you some of the details on how this masterpiece was created.

"What we were going for this year, was since the team has a new name for the ballpark, and they're trying to get a new team -- a young, youthful moving into the future-ish, you know, so we thought maybe a little bit more of a modern approach," Mantchev told NBC Sports Bay Area. 

Her use of simple shades, cool palettes and clean lines demonstrate the modern theme.

Are you ready? Here you go ...

Mantchev looked at a lot of images of Pillar and wanted to showcase how skilled he was as a batter -- and of course, his sleeve tattoo which is beautifully depicted on the card.

As far as making sure his facial features were on point as well, she admitted that was another portion of the project that was important, but didn't want it to be solely based on what he looked like.

"Instead of just showcasing a headshot -- I think everyone knows what he looks like -- you can find those photos anywhere," she said.

"It's funny you mention that because he has a very distinguished nose [it's true, he has a certain profile]. And yeah, of course he has his beard. I at least wanted to show that."

Movement was also an important factor for the final product since Pillar is known for his movements on defense as well.

"When I think of Kevin, I don't think of him as a face, I think of his body movements. I think of him making catches and stuff like that."

Dialing it back to the color scheme, of all colors that could complement the orange color associated with the Giants ... it was blue. But she didn't want to go full-on blue, for obvious reasons.

"I didn't want to do straight blue because everybody thinks Dodgers or Padres," she explained. "So then I went lighter and found this kind of teal color, or more of an aqua."

You can see the circle-shaped sky painted in this color (the circle reminded Mantchev of a baseball, it was perfect) behind the Pillar animation which also highlighted the San Francisco skyline. 

[RELATED: Pillar emotional on return to Toronto following trade]

Working on this final piece of art, Mantchev said she worked closely with the Giants' art department to ensure even the smallest details were tended to. 

"This is art, and it's supposed to be fun and different and you can do things in art that you can't do in real life, and they understand that," she said.

You can even be on TV with these one-of-a-kind Pillar cheer cards if you want to stop by NBC Sports Bay Area's set for Giants Pregame and Giants Postgame Live at Willie Mays Plaza.

We will be showcasing other cheer cards throughout the season. And if you missed any of them, no problem. You can see it all during the "Battle of the Bay Art Show," an A's and Giants-themed art exhibit during the Bay Bridge Series from Aug. 13-14.

Tyler Beede accomplished big off-field goal one month before first MLB win


Tyler Beede accomplished big off-field goal one month before first MLB win

SAN FRANCISCO -- When Vanderbilt's Class of 2019 gathered on the school's alumni lawn May 10, there was a spot waiting for one of the school's most famous recent students. But Tyler Beede was thousands of miles away.

The right-hander had pitched two relief innings at Coors Field the previous night and would come out of the bullpen four days later against the Toronto Blue Jays as the Giants experimented with an opener for the first time. But like so many others on May 10, Beede officially became a graduate of Vanderbilt University. 

When the Giants took Beede 14th overall out of the pitching factory in 2014, he was just 19 credits short of getting his degree in organizational management. Beede picked classes back up in 2017 and this spring, five weeks before he celebrated his first win in the majors, he got his degree. 

"Ultimately that was a desire of mine to go and finish up as soon as possible," Beede said. "I knew the longer I waited the less I would feel inclined to want to go and take classes. I was glad I was already that close to graduating, and then the rest was just finding time, finding the right situation for me, and then just hammering them out from there."

It's not always easy for a prospect to find that right situation, and not just because it would take some serious self-motivation for any guy in his mid-20s to sign up for classes when he received a $2.6 million signing bonus and was closing in on a big league job. Beede initially planned to go back to Nashville in the fall of 2017, but a groin injury ended that season prematurely and he was sent to the Arizona Fall League to make up for lost innings. 

Beede was excited to be back on a mound, but also bummed that he couldn't go back to Vanderbilt to knock out some classes. He reached out to the school, which does not have online classes, with a simple question: "Is there anything I can do?" Beede was told he could finish up his hours at nearby Arizona State and transfer those over. 

He took three courses while pitching in the Fall League that year and then three more during spring training the next year. While teammates might have been headed to the golf course after games, he was often doing homework. Occasionally he would sit in the clubhouse before a game -- not one he was starting -- and take an online test. 

"In the past I was like, I don't want to focus on anything else except baseball, and then once I got into the routine of spring training and what it was like and what to expect, I knew what kind of time I had," he said. "There is a lot of free time in spring training, especially early on when it's just pitchers and catchers. We're done by like 1 (p.m.) so it gives me time on the back end to do stuff.

"It wasn't ideal to do both (baseball and school) at the same time, but it kind of reminded me of college when I had to do both. It was worth it to have it finished and not be a distraction going forward or something I had to worry about."

Beede said he always knew he wanted to get his degree no matter how his professional career turned out. When the Blue Jays took him with the 21st pick in 2011, he turned down a $2.5 million bonus and went to school, in part because of conversations with family members who told him there was tremendous value in getting a free education at a prestigious school and then pursuing his big league dreams afterward. 

Beede finally appears close to realizing the latter part. Still just 26, he has shown flashes of the potential that twice got him drafted in the first round. Beede has a 6.96 ERA overall as a rookie, but that first win came last week when he struck out seven in six strong innings at Dodger Stadium. The Giants are anxious to see if he can finally lock down a rotation spot and have given him a long leash.  

[RELATED: Report: Giants, Dodgers not ruling out Will Smith trade]

The first win always comes with a souvenir baseball and the scorecard from the game, and when Beede finds a spot for the items in his offseason home, he may need to clear out a bit more room. A breakthrough on the mound kept Beede from flying to Nashville for graduation, but the diploma was sent to his parents in Massachusetts. He told his mom she'll need to mail it to him.

"I'll have that hung up somewhere in my house for sure," Beede said.